The Salk Institute for Biological Studies

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The Salk Institute for Biological Studies is an independent, non-profit, scientific research institute located in La Jolla, California. It was founded in 1960 by Jonas Salk, the developer of the polio vaccine; among the founding consultants were Jacob Bronowski and Francis Crick. Building did not start until spring of 1962. The institute consistently ranks among the top institutions in the US in terms of research output and quality in the life sciences. In 2004, the Times Higher Education Supplement ranked Salk as the world’s top biomedicine research institute, and in 2009 it was ranked number one globally by ScienceWatch in the neuroscience and behavior areas.

The institute employs 850 researchers in 60 research groups and focuses its research in three areas: Molecular Biology and Genetics; Neurosciences; and Plant Biology. Research topics include cancer, diabetes, birth defects, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, AIDS, and the neurobiology of American Sign Language. The March of Dimes provided the initial funding and continues to support the institute. Current research is funded by a variety of organizations, such as the NIH, the HHMI and private organizations such as Paris-based Ipsen and the Waitt Family Foundation. In addition, the internally administered Innovation Grants Program encourages cutting-edge high-risk research. The institute appointed genome biologist Eric Lander and stem cell biologist Irving Weissman as non-resident fellows in November 2009.

The campus was designed by Louis Kahn. Salk had sought to make a beautiful campus in order to draw the best researchers in the world. Salk and Kahn having both descended from Russian Jewish parents that had immigrated to the United States had a deeper connection than just mere partners on an architectural project. The results of their connection is seen in the design that resulted from their collaboration. The original buildings of the Salk Institute were designated as a historical landmark in 1991. The entire 27-acre (11 ha) site was deemed eligible by the California Historical Resources Commission in 2006 for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

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The institute is housed in a complex designed by the firm of Louis KahnJack MacAllister, FAIA, of the Kahn firm was the supervising architect and a major design influence on the structure that consists of two symmetric buildings with a stream of water flowing in the middle of a courtyard that separates the two. In the beginning the buildings were made up of different kinds of cement mixes. Kahn wanted to see what kind of mixture would best work as well as look the best. Each mixture had a different color. In the basement of the complex, there are different colored cement walls because Kahn was experimenting with the mixtures. Kahn also added wood to the complex. Kahn wanted the wood and the cement to complement each other. The buildings themselves have been designed to promote collaboration, and thus there are no walls separating laboratories on any floor. There is one floor in the basement, and two above it on both sides. The lighting fixtures have been designed to easily slide along rails on the roof, in tune with the collaborative and open philosophy of the Salk Institute’s science. At first Kahn wanted to put a garden in the middle of the two buildings. As construction continued, Kahn did not know what shape it should take. Kahn saw an exhibit of Luis Barragan’s work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Kahn invited Baragan to collaborate on the court that separated the two buildings. Barragan told Kahn that he should not add one leaf, nor plant, not one flower, nor dirt. Instead, make it a plaza with a single water feature. the resulting space is arguably the most impressive element of the entire design.

According to A. Perez, the concrete was made with volcanic ash relying on the basis of ancient Roman concrete making techniques, and as a result gives off a warm, pinkish glow. The basement also houses the transgenic core. Each laboratory block has five study towers, with each tower containing four offices, except for those near the entrance to the court, which only contain two. A diagonal wall allows each of the thirty-six scientists using the studies to have a view of the Pacific, and every study is fitted with a combination of operable sliding and fixed glass panels in teak wood frames. Originally the design also included living quarters and a conference building, but they were never actually built.

(excerpts from Wikipedia)

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