7 Salk Institute

La Jolla, California
Louis Kahn, 1963

Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute Photo Credit: Adrian Torkington, Salk Institute

Two mirror-image concrete buildings face each other across a travertine marble courtyard. Photo Credit: Adrian Torkington, Salk Institute

Louis Kahn’s approach to modernism was quiet, dignified, and monumental. Photo Credit: Adrian Torkington, Salk Institute

In addition to concrete and marble, Kahn incorporated teak, glass, and steel in his design. The skillful manipulation of natural light is a Kahn trademark. Photo Credit: Adrian Torkington, Salk Institute

Salk Institute

Founded by Jonas Salk, M.D., who developed the polio vaccine, the Salk Institute is a research institution dedicated to the biological sciences: molecular biology, genetics, neuroscience, and plant biology.

In 1959, seeking to draw the best researchers in the world to San Diego, Dr. Salk asked architect Louis Kahn to design a campus that would foster collaboration, take advantage of its natural environment, and be worthy of “a visit by Picasso.”

Kahn responded with a modern and monumental design. Using poured-in-place concrete construction, he created two mirror-image, boldly geometric buildings that provide the spacious, collaborative laboratories Dr. Salk envisioned. Dignified and dramatic, the buildings face each other across a travertine courtyard and water garden, framing a view of the Pacific Ocean.

Kahn later described Dr. Salk as the ideal client: “One who knows not what he wants, but what he aspires to.”