Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Louis Kahn

All of these images were contributed to my site by my good friend Alice Lora. If you are interested in using them, please contact her directly. Alice Lora at

Dr. Jonas Salk, inventor of the polio vaccine, commissioned Kahn to design these inspiring research facilities--the second scientific research campus designed by him. (See also Richards Medical Research Laboratory, University of Pennsylvania) This tranquil setting borders the Pacific ocean and the thin channel of water on the central plaza drains into the ocean. (See the photographs on the bottom row for the oceanside.) Gwendolyn Wright explains that Kahn took his ideas about order to a "transcendent plane" in this work and that "his attention to minute details evoked scientific precision. The fundamentals of biological research and architectural systems entered the realm of the Sublime" (167).

"Two rows of four-storey concrete towers, open at ground level and angled for views of the sea, contain private studies and collective labs" (Wright 167).
Kahn wanted the facility to last with minimal maintenance. Thus, he used concrete, teak, lead, glass, and steel. The concrete was poured in place, using methods invented by the Romans to achieve the color of the concrete, which was unfinished--without grinding or coloring. The teak was also unstained. Consequently, it is claimed that the structure looks today much as it did originally.


Connecting hallways and lightwells

Mechanical spaces are concealed in the building, separating the "served" and "servant" spaces, terms Kahn used.

View from the west--oceanside

See this index for additional works by Kahn.

Work Cited: Gwendolyn Wright. USA: Modern Architecture in History. London: Reaktion Books. 2008.

Click here to return to index of art historical sites.

Click here to return to index of artists and architects.

Click here to return to chronological index.

Click here to see the home page of Bluffton University.

© 2015 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. They are not available for commercial purposes.