How Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute Influenced a Generation of Architects

We believe that nearly everyone who has studied architecture over the past 50 years has seen The Salk Institute, designed by Louis Kahn. Although it doesn’t always show in their work, our speakers shared their stories about how the modernist gem built in 1963 played a part in their lives. We thought it would be fun to share some stories from previous events, since we have just begun our second Virtual World Tour in October 2021.

“(…) All of the most beautiful and iconic buildings in the globe are also designed by brilliant clients”, stated Dutch architect Nanne De Ru (powerhouse company in Rotterdam) during his talk at our digital Netherlands Edition in 2021. He cited the example of Louis Kahn’s collaboration and Jonas Salk, an American virologist, who had commissioned La Jolla, United States (known as the Salk Institute) in 1959. De Ru believes it was the client and the architect who came together to create these beautiful spaces. He is annoyed by profit-oriented developers today and decided to start his own real estate company to ensure better architecture.

Courtesy of AnA

We think of all the architects who have presented at our talks when we talk about high-quality architecture. Some of you may think of Ma Yansong, from MAD architects (Beijing). His parametric approach to architecture is not something that everyone would expect. He told us, however, that Louis Kahn was the architect he liked best. It was mid-night when he visited Salk Institute. To explore the campus, he had to climb the fence and take a picture that was quite different from what we are used to. Instead of the usual one-point perspective that focuses on the blue sky and ocean view, this picture shows a “black hole” with Kahn’s volume washed in yellow light. This picture represents Ma Yansong’s ability to create powerful spaces.

Courtesy of AnA

These spaces can facilitate more than just average human encounters. The Salk Institute has been able to support research that has led to multiple Noble Prize laureates. It has even been used as the backdrop for a wedding. We couldn’t help but smile when we heard the story of Maria Warner Wong (WoW architects Singapore). Chiu Man, her husband, had first met her while on an excursion to the building during their college years at University of Southern California. They married in their beloved building after five years of intensive travel and further study. Both are now architects and have been teaching in Singapore for the past five years.

Courtesy of AnA

Architecture transcends time, space, and even itself. We listen to the stories of contemporary architects, and we hope to share their lives. Because we believe architecture is much more than just the finished product. You can hear these stories from the ground by joining us on our second Virtual World Tour, which will begin October 13. 2021 in Hong Kong. We will also be visiting Brazil, Turkey, Turkey, and Japan, where Toyo Ito, Pritzker Prize winner, will be our highlight of the season!

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