Friday, 4 October 2013

Salk Institute, La Jolla, San Diego

The Salk Institute continues to be acclaimed by architecture critics as one of the world's boldest structures.  On my last day of this five-week trip I was able to make an architectural tour.

Dr. Jonas Salk, an American medical researcher and virologist, is best known for his discovery and development of the first successful polio vaccine.  He established the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. His goal was to create an institute that would serve as a crucible for creativity to pursue questions about the basic principles of life. He wanted biologists and others to work together to explore the wider implications of their discoveries for the future of humanity.

Today the major areas of study at Salk are: molecular biology and genetics, neurosciences, and plant biology. Salk research provides new understanding and potential new therapies and treatments for a range of diseases—from cancer, AIDS and Alzheimer's disease, to cardiovascular disorders, anomalies of the brain and birth defects. Discoveries by plant biologists at the Salk pave the way to improving the quality and quantity of the world's food supply and to addressing pressing environmental problems, including global warming.

In 1959, Salk and architect Louis Kahn began a unique partnership to design and build a truly distinguished research facility.   Completed in 1965 and now designated a historical site, the Institute fulfills Dr. Salk's vision of a facility with open, unobstructed laboratory interiors set in a dramatic location that inspires creativity among its researchers. The Institute rests on coastal bluffs in La Jolla, California, 350 feet above the Pacific Ocean on a 27-acre site donated by the City of San Diego.

The structure consists of two symmetric buildings with a stream of water flowing in the middle of a courtyard that separates the two. The buildings themselves have been designed to promote collaboration, and thus there are no walls separating laboratories on any floor.
The concrete was made with volcanic ash and as a result gives off a warm, pinkish glow.
Each laboratory block has five study towers, with each tower containing four offices. A diagonal wall allows each of the thirty-six scientists using the studies to have a view of the Pacific, and every study is fitted with a combination of operable sliding and fixed glass panels in teak wood frames.

Postdoctoral Fellow Amy Firth, (York, and Bath Univ)

Architectural guide Ellen Zimmerman



Jonas Salk knew there was more to conquer than polio. So he built an institute to do it.
One of the most influential architects of the mid-20th century:

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