Located in the charming coastal town of La Jolla California is the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. An architectural landmark completed in 1965 by Louis I. Khan, draws visitors from all over the world and today I took a much needed break and decided to fill my head with inspiration. Daily tours commence at noon and I highly recommend joining one.The weaving of space and lines marries the architecture formed from the past to display a modern future. Constructed of travertine and concrete a first time visitor might find it quite imposing or sterile, yet if you spend the time to look around you will embrace the designer’s vision of simplicity as perfection.
North and the south of the campus there are two main buildings which house active laboratories. In the center of campus there are two more buildings, one of which contains a marvelous Chihuly chandelier and the other a grandiose stair case not to be missed.
The large open courtyard in the middle is regularly featured in international publications for its architectural lines and intentional lack of plant life. The only piece of nature within the institute is actual the view outside. A commanding and lovely view from every vantage point is the Pacific Ocean.
Taking all this in at once is like the moment after meditation when your head is clear and you can see straight.
To give you a little back story on this landmark is Jonas Salk, who was in a highpoint of his scientific career having just discovered a vaccine for Polio with Kahn in 1959. The two men had an instant connection and discussed creating an institute that would fuse art and science. Kahn, under the direction of Salk, created a building that was a synthesis of concrete and travertine which gave the look a temple-like quality.
Marveling at the structure of the institute, the look is one of ancient meets modern, this is achieved through the use of travertine rock making a viewer think of ancient temples, and and pairing it with simple lines and a minimalist decor. I’m reminded of the inspiration for the Getty with a roman temple feel or that of the mythical green gardens of Hesperides. Like Salk, creating groundbreaking vaccines, this building is a homage to the ancient physicians, like Galen, the creator of many of the most modern marvels of medicine in ancient times walking amongst the hallways. Science is just as important here as the arts. Knowing that many of the most groundbreaking discoveries are happening in this location and that even after Salk’s passing, his legacy has been carried on makes this building the perfect fusion of art and medicine. If you are at all interested, they have a Science and Music series running throughout the year where they pair a marvelous musician with a 20 minute break for a scientist to speak upon the research happening inside the institute, it sounds absolutely brilliant.