Richards Medical Research Laboratory, University of Pennsylvania

Louis I. Kahn

"Servant" and "Served" towers

This laboratory is actually made up of six linked towers with brick walled shafts adjacent to the glass-walled lab spaces which contain the service pipes and ducts. These two types of towers were described by Kahn as the "servant" and the "served." These clusters of towers are reminiscent of the defense towers in a medieval city or an Italian hill town.

Additive architecture

Kahn often preferred an architecture that seemed to follow clear geometric rules. Although he rarely used bilateral symmetry, he did use symmetrical elements, preferring this orderly quality to the asymmetry some modernist architects embraced. See plan.
Spiro Kostof explains that the "composition of his buildings is characterized by discreteness of parts, bluntly combined. This aggregate growth keeps two things in mind. It intends to break down an institutional identity into human-sized units; and it allows the separation of primary elements of use from mechanical or support systems . . ." (742).

Open, naturally lit labs

These small labs were designed to encourage small team interaction. The unique construction (frames of rigid reinforced concrete with post-tensioned beams held by steel cables) provided open spaces without the necessity of interior structural columns.

An entrance loggia

Work Cited:
Spiro Kostof. A History of Architecture: Settings and Rituals. New York: Oxford UP, 1985.

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© 2008 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.