The Evolution of a Building Complex: Louis I. Kahn’s Salk Institute for Biological Studies By Jeffry Kieffer Artifice $29.30 In spite of its title, this book is not exactly a reconstruction of the evolution of the Salk Institute from the time of Dr. Salk’s first meeting with Louis Kahn in 1959 to when the first scientists moved into the northernmost laboratory block lining the monumental plaza overlooking the ocean in 1966. This book may be seen as a polemical essay that seeks not only to refute the negative reception of Kahn’s work by established European critics like Colin Rowe, Reyner Banham, and Manfredo Tafuri, but also to challenge the notion that the French Enlightenment strongly influenced Kahn. This idea was hypothesized in the 1980s by a number of Italian scholars, such as Marcello Angrisani, whom I cited in my essay “Louis Kahn and the French Connection,” first published in Oppositions 22 in 1980. Despite acknowledging the influence of the French émigré architect Paul Cret, who was Kahn’s mentor at the University of Pennsylvania until the latter’s graduation in 1924, Jeffry Kieffer finds it necessary to insist that Kahn’s approach was not typological. This term references the abstract type-forms promulgated by J. N. L. Durand in his 19th-century treatise Précis des leçons d’architecture données á l’Ecole Polytechnique, which was destined to establish the compositional method of the École des Beaux-Arts, by which Cret had been formed. Cret attempted to transmit this thought process to his students, notwithstanding Kahn’s socially committed, anti-academic stance adopted during his collaboration with Oscar Stonorov at the time of the New Deal. Despite Kahn’s initial commitment to social housing, Kieffer insists that Kahn in his maturity was influenced, like Frank Lloyd Wright, by American transcendentalism, although he fails to observe how this preoccupation was also evident in the work of Buckminster Fuller, who influenced Kahn via Anne Tyng when the two designed the gargantuan, geodesic City Tower project of 1952–57. Further, Kieffer skips over not only the countervailing impact of Kahn’s sojourn at the American Academy in Rome from 1951 to 1952 but also the simultaneous publication on Kahn’s doorstep, as it were, of Emil Kaufmann’s Three Revolutionary Architects: Boullée, Ledoux, and Lequeu, issued by the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia in 1952. Surely this work has to be one of the sources for Kahn’s hermeticism, more than Kieffer’s somewhat simplistic suggestion that there’s a link between an open Torah and the symmetrical plan of the Salk Institute, which comprises twin blocks on either side of an axial plaza facing the sea. If any part of Kahn’s Salk Institute proposal is hermetic, then it is surely his unrealized Meeting House complex, which seems to have been conceived by the architect as cryptically overcoming the split between C. P. Snow’s two cultures, i.e., the separate discourses of art and science—which may account for Kahn’s metaphorical treatment of the Meeting House as “a building wrapped in ruins.” Uncertain as to what might be the ultimate program for such a building, Kahn seems to have rung the exterior around its content—part lounge, part dining hall, part library, part theater—with all except this last being housed in orthogonal volumes. Kahn ostensibly modeled the theater, according to Kieffer, after Ledoux’s Besançon theater of 1775, but the theater associated with the Meeting House bears little resemblance to Ledoux’s form. Kieffer is at his best in his formal analysis of the Salk Institute, although even here the rigorous character of his analysis might have been aided by the support of annotated diagrams. Above all other considerations, Kieffer wants to convince us that Kahn’s constant preoccupation was to render every building as a transcendental light modulator, with light continually changing according to the movement of the sun. At the same time Kahn’s approach was often to assume an a priori geometrical gestalt as a point of departure, as in his 1959 First Unitarian Church in Rochester. His designs were also often inflected both tectonically and programmatically, as is evident from the folded-plate version of his long-span interstitial service floors set between the layered laboratories at Salk, a solution that was eventually abandoned in favor of Vierendeel trusses spanning across the labs. A similar inflection occurs with the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, of 1965–72, wherein cycloid pseudo-vaults span 100 feet as folded plates in such a way as to provide for both longitudinal pseudo-rooms and a transverse flexible loft space, thereby reconciling the inherent conflict between a museum conceived as an assembly of rooms and a museum conceived as open-ended space. Kenneth Frampton is the Ware Professor of Architecture at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University.
Posts tagged with "Salk Institute":
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries received a gift of 600 photographs by Felice Frankel, the renowned artist and scientist. Currently a researcher in the university’s Department of Chemical Engineering, Frankel has published her stunning photographs widely, and her early images of iconic architecture and landscapes are now at home in “Dome,” the library’s digital database of images and media, as well as in a collection-specific digital venue, DSpace@MIT. “Science has always been in my soul,” Frankel told The New York Times—she majored in biology and worked at a cancer research lab before her husband was sent to Vietnam. When he returned, he gave her a “good camera” as a present—Frankel emphasizes the “good.” With the tool in hand, Frankel discovered the power of photography when applied to learning and exploration. She doesn’t see her photographs as Art with a capital A—she sees her images as a learning tool, a way of documenting phenomena around her. Many of the photographs included in the new MIT collection are from a cross-country road trip, and many of her scientific images are aids for visual classroom learning, for use where an image is less intimidating than an equation. Frankel began her professional engagement with photography working as a volunteer for a public television station, and shortly after for an architect. She soon decided to pursue landscape photography independently, producing images for magazines, and eventually in her own book, Modern Landscape Architecture: Redefining the Garden. Many photos from this book are now being given a second life at MIT for direct student interaction both physically and digitally as individual elements. The photographs are discoveries Frankel wants to share with her students, and with the world. While she has recently become well known for her scientific images of cells and other miniscule things, her images gracing the covers of scholarly journals like Science, she sees a connection between the newer content and the recently gifted collection of her built environments. She says, “It’s all about capturing structured information.” Engaging with famous pieces of architecture like Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute and sculptural elements like Lawrence Halprin’s Ira Keller Fountain, Frankel fully explores her unique sense of composition. Without needing to rely on human subjects to get a great photograph, the buildings and landscapes are studies in mass, light, and color.
The San Diego Architectural Foundation (SDAF) has announced the lineup for its annual Open House San Diego (OHSD), an architecture and urban design extravaganza scheduled to take place March 23 and 24. The free festival will open up over 100 architecturally-significant locations across San Diego for building and history enthusiasts to explore. The list of buildings includes some of the city’s newest architectural works as well as several of its most historic sites, including Balboa Park, Barrio Logan, and some in the city’s bustling downtown area. This year, the event will spread to the northern suburb of La Jolla, home to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and many historic works by Irving Gill, among others. In a press release, OHSD founder Susanne Friestedt said, “We expect thousands of San Diegans and out of town visitors, including families and architecture and design students interested in learning about the design, history, and development of our city.” She added, “Last year, more than 7,500 visits were tallied at 83 sites. This year we anticipate at least 10,000 site visit visits. 350 trained volunteers will be on hand to assist visitors.” One highlight in the lineup includes the recently-completed Block D Makers Quarter, a six-story creative office hub designed by BNIM that strives for high-impact sustainability. The LEED Platinum and net-zero structure is wrapped in louvered shades and will anchor a new creative quarter in downtown San Diego. Miller Hull’s The Wharf at Point Loma, America’s Cup Harbor project, a finger-like arrangement of shops and public spaces, will also open to the public. With the structure, the architects have brought a commercial and social node to San Diego’s waterfront area. Other sites include the Salk Institute by Louis Kahn in La Jolla, the Atmosphere apartments in Downtown San Diego designed by Joseph Wong Design Associates, and the Jacobs Music Center designed by Gensler. See the OHSD website for more information and a full list of participating sites.
The winners of the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) 11th annual Upjohn Research Initiative have been announced, and $100,000 in grants will be split among the four recipients. Those chosen will receive funding for 18 months to pursue research projects that push the boundaries of design, and their results will be published nationally. This year’s grant recipients leaned heavily on designs inspired by nature: Half of the group will study the various benefits of biophilia, while another project will examine how biodiversity impacts a structure’s ecological resilience. The 2018 winners are as follows:
- The Impact of Biophilic Learning Spaces on Student Success
- Biophilic Architecture: Sustainable Materialization of Microalgae Facades
- Biodiverse Built Environments: High-Performance Passive Systems for Ecologic Resilience
- Tilt Print Lift - Concrete 3D Printing for Precast Assemblies
The Salk Institute announced yesterday that it is launching a new preservation-focused endowment called the Architecture Conservation Program, which will be designed to facilitate the restoration of the Institute’s Louis Kahn–designed headquarters in La Jolla, California. The announcement comes as the Institute completes work on limited conservation efforts aimed at restoring the nearly-60-year-old complex. For the project, architects Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. of Pasadena, California replaced and rebuilt the building's iconic teak wood exterior paneling systems. The $9.8 million restoration was funded by the Getty Conservation Institute’s Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative and will extend the lifespan of those components by another 50 to 70 years, according to a statement. The organization also recently completed a comprehensive conservation management plan for the complex that was funded by the Getty Foundation’s Keeping It Modern Initiative. But still, the improvements will not be enough to halt time’s slow and steady grind. Anticipating the Institute’s future preservation needs, Elizabeth Blackburn, Salk Institute president, said, “Despite the wonderful success of the teak restoration, the Salk Institute will continue to need care as the years go on.” She added, “Our next project will be restoring the concrete of the buildings, which is beginning to wear.” To aid in the restoration, the Institute has created an unspecified endowment to fund the “future needs of this beloved masterpiece,” said Elizabeth Shepherd, wife of Jonas Salk's son, Jonathan Salk. (Sheperd and Salk have made a "lead gift" toward the new program, according to the Salk Institute.) No word yet on how much money will ultimately be allocated to the restoration of the complex's concrete components, nor has a timeline been established for these improvements. For more information, see the Salk Institute website.
The Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) announced this morning that after three years of research, construction is currently underway on a series of architectural conservation efforts aimed at restoring the luster of Louis Kahn’s seminal Southern California work, the Salk Insitute of Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. The GCI is providing research and funding to enact necessary site repairs and develop a long-term conservation management plan at the 51-year old complex, widely considered to be one of Kahn’s masterworks. The complex is designed as a series of laboratories and offices overlooking a central courtyard facing the Pacific Ocean; its buildings are articulated in monolithic concrete walls and outfitted with custom-made teak windows. Kahn was originally commissioned to design the complex in 1965 as the new research base for the man credited with developing the polio vaccine, Dr. Jonas Salk. The Institute’s beachside locale has resulted in extensive deterioration and a “non-uniform appearance” of those distinctive teak elements, which number 203 in total. Each window assembly was prefabricated by carpenters in accordance with a highly-customized fenestration regime for the building, with each aperture offering varied combinations of sliding window panes, louvres, and shutters. Research conducted by the GCI team discovered that the window walls were suffering from particular forms of deterioration resulting from the presence of a fungal biofilm growing on the frames, exposure to the elements, and the detrimental effects of prior maintenance efforts. Not only that, but researchers discovered that the windows also suffer from moisture infiltration resulting from a lack of flashing and weather stripping and, additionally, the outright failure of weather sealants. Over the course of their studies, researchers coordinated their efforts by studying original documentation in Kahn’s archives, performing laboratory analysis on in situ materials, and eventually developing full-scale mock-ups of the windows to test conservation approaches. The conservation work, executed by Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. of Pasadena, California, was launched in 2013. Now that research has concluded, construction has begun and the project is due to finish in the spring of 2017. London-based Peter Inskip + Peter Jenkins Architects are consulting on the project as well. Both teams worked on the recent conservation work performed at Kahn’s Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut. The initiative to restore the architectural masterpiece was coordinated as part of the GCI’s Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative, a project that has also overseen conservation management plan for the Charles and Ray Eames House in Malibu, California. It's funded by the Getty Foundation’s Keeping It Modern Initiative. Tim Whalen, director of the GCI, commented on the iconic nature of the project, saying, “The Salk Institute is an architectural icon, and the Getty was privileged to be invited by the Salk to work with them on the building’s long-term preservation. Our access to the site, its archives, and the Institute’s staff, some of whom have worked there since the early years, has been extraordinary,” adding, “The methodology developed by the GCI will serve as a roadmap for future conservation projects at the Salk Institute, as well as a model for other Louis Kahn buildings and buildings with similar conservation issues.” A special lecture regarding the GCI’s conservation efforts at the Salk Institute is scheduled for October 5 at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. That talk will be the first of many Kahn-related events occurring across the Southland this year, complementing a career retrospective on Kahn, Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture, hosted by the San Diego Museum of Art, set to open November 5, 2016, in San Diego.
The San Diego Museum of Art will showcase the works of Louis Kahn this fall as it holds a series of exhibitions and events revolving around the renowned architect’s iconic works, including the famed Salk Institute in nearby La Jolla, California. Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture, opening November 5th, looks to bring 200 objects related to Kahn’s life and building projects into focus, including the first public showing of the Philadelphia architect’s watercolor, pastel, and charcoal sketches created over the course his extensive travels. The exhibition aims to be all-encompassing, discussing the architect’s biography alongside his most famous works. It will also point an eye toward the rigor of his architectural practice, with the artistic prowess embodied by the sketches being supplemented by personal documents, drawings, study models, and archival images of his iconic architectural works. Kahn's oeuvre ranges from American-bound projects like Salk in California and the Library at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire to his work in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where Kahn designed the then newly-independent nation's National Assembly building in 1982. In a press release for the exhibition, Roxana Velásquez, the Maruja Baldwin executive director of The San Diego Museum of Art, praised the architect’s local work, referring to the Salk Institute as “a San Diego landmark regarded as one of the most inspirational works of architecture in the world.” Another exhibition, Shape, Shadow, and Space: Photographs of the Salk Institute, will showcase architectural photography by design students of the Woodbury University School of Architecture and run alongside The Power of Architecture. The museum also aims to hold a symposium featuring scholars of the architect’s life and works on the opening day of the exhibition; the museum will also screen the film My Architect, A Son’s Journey, in conjunction with the panel. The film is to be presented by its director, Nathaniel Kahn, son of Louis Kahn. The exhibition will run through January 31, 2017, capping off a banner season for San Diego–area architecture enthusiasts that will also see a constellation of local museums showcasing the work local architectural hero Irving J. Gill concurrently.
The Center for Architecture is known for programming variety, but last Thursday night's premier of Architect: a chamber opera was a first. Granted, the film premier benefiting the CFA Foundation wasn’t live opera, but it was the first time the public got to hear the piece by Lewis Spratlan. The Pulitzer Prize winning composer's music was paired with electroacoustical music by John Downey and Jenny Kallick, whose process involved "sound sampling" spaces designed by Kahn, such as the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California. Spratlan's music was then electronically "placed" within the various spaces. For all the electronic bells and whistles, the piece is fairly traditional, albeit inflected with modernist leanings. Classic operatic devices could be found throughout, particularly in the character of a trickster god called Momus, a minor deity thrown off Olympus. The trickster morphs into the Guide, the Engineer, and the Healer, all of who conspire to get the architect away from the Woman, in order to create buildings that flatter the gods. Given Kahn's unconventional personal life--various children from various lovers and a tragic demise at New York's Penn Station--playing off the personal drama would seem an obvious choice. Instead, the team obliquely focused on the architect's struggle to realize his vision, opting for a universal theme that transcended the medium and artist. The film intersperses relatively few images of Kahn’s buildings with watercolors by artist Michiko Theurer. and photographs of Rome’s crumbling ruins, partly inspired by Edgar Alan Poe's poem, "The Coliseum". Even images of Gaudi's "La Sagrada Familia" find their way into the cross fades. The creators traveled to Eternal City, to several Kahn buildings, and worked together at Yale where the architect’s Art Gallery and Center for British Art loomed over the process. For opera designer John Conklin the work evoked Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande. Kallick's libretto eschewed archi-speak in favor of conversations between Kahn and his collaborators, such as this statement to the Engineer: "Dear August [Komendant] why does everyon pull me down?" "You are a dreamer not a fighter," replies the engineer. This kicks off an ode to concrete duet, that's clearly the opera's show-stopper: "Mix and cure it with the right vibration," goes the oft repeated refrain. And finally, the words every engineer wants to hear from an architect: "Your genius has made my buildings your buildings." Part of what makes Architect intriguing is the colaborators cross polinization into other fields. Spratlan wanted to be an architect before becoming a composer, Theurer is trained as a violinist, and Downey is studying radiology at Stanford. Later during the panel discussion, Kahn’s daughter Sue-Ann Kahn, said that the piece was an allegory for any artist’s struggle. “Either the gods are helping them or crushing them,” she said. Having Conklin on hand turned the post-screening panel into a virtual workshop. Conklin, having seen the video before, simply listened to the piece apart from the imagery. He said that while the ethereal images worked well on video, live opera was another matter. He thought much of the abstraction could be retained, but he envisioned scenes between the Architect and the Woman played in a banal kitchen. He also suggested bringing the small orchestra, there are only seven players, onto to stage to become part of the action. The video will be released with the CD in Spring 2012 and the creators hope to perform the production live at a Kahn-designed site. The idea intrigued AN's editors, who suggested Dacca, the more cost and acoustically effective auditorium at the Yale Center for British Art, or at the new Four Freedoms Park performed by the homeless City Opera. As Sue-Ann Kahn pointed out during the panel discussion, the delayed memorial exemplifies the artist's struggle to see their work realized.