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 E  S  S  A  Y  2
That What You Desire and That What Is Available 
by marchelle rice
senior @ Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA
BFA with a major in graphic design
*Images in essay are not yet available

     Louis Kahn, an Estonian Jewish immigrant and an architect, could devise corners, walls as well as open spaces with an innate monumental significance. He was born in 1901 in Russia and moved to the United States that same year. As a young boy Kahn won awards in drawing and painting in high school. He studied architecture at University of Pennsylvania and received his Bachelors of Architecture in 1925. He was trained in the Beaux Arts tradition under the professor Paul P. Cret.  He went on to work in Cret¹s office in 1929-1930. His friends, who were architects, Buckminster Fuller and Frederick Kiesler, inspired Kahn in the 1930¹s and 1940¹s. For thirty years prior to the Salk Institute, his projects included homes, synagogues, dormitories and medical facilities; a variety credits proved to have had some type of significant influence with his design for the Salk Institute. As Kahn said, ³Inspiration is to express our inclination.²1  Kahn incorporated his concept of the right design into the plans for the Salk Institute, a scientific facility in La Jolla, California.  Kahn believed that ³the solution is not in the plan,²2 but in the design principles such as form, content, and context.  He had realized that the whole needed to be represented by its parts.  The scientists who work on the solutions to medical maladies, do so not for the fame and glory of the possible cure but for  their individual pursuit of something bigger than themselves. Kahn and Salk insisted that the facilities should be an inspiration to all who live and visit the institute. Kahn couldn¹t place an ordinary building on this site, he was motivated with a desire to mix his inspiration with modern technology.  The Salk Institute was created as a center devoted to human studies, values and total health. If the scientist desires to reveal the solutions of diseases and maladies within ³our health sector then the process could not be hampered with an inadequate facility.³3 As Kahn said, ³That which you desire and that which is available ³4 can be expresses in two words, ŒSilence and Light.¹5

  The form of this building includes constructional elements such as the mediums used as well as the color, line, shape, light, and the symmetry of the site. Kahn¹s solution for the Salk facility projected images of quiet solitude as a scientist lives one¹s life in silence not yet knowing as one waits in the light of discovery. Kahn created a working environment for scientists that provides ³the eternal necessities for human creativity...Light, water, and plenty.²6 A scientific facility is considered a place in which will bring forth the ideas necessary for the revelation of solutions.  Kahn had ³the building positioned to look out toward the ocean,² which is ³the biological source of all life,² and thus brought ³light into darkness, to peer into the future.²7  There may be complex thinking occurring on this site but simplicity was just as important for the constructional elements of the building.  The image # 4 is the site plan.  The institute is perched on the coastline with laboratories, residences, auxiliary services, a mechanical building, and a extraordinary courtyard which becomes a canvas for daily works of art as the sky dictates the background and the ever-changing view of the ocean positions itself within the foreground.  The institute needed to withstand the rough coastal weather of storms, the salt air, and the hot Californian sun.  The mediums used were concrete and teak plywood for the exterior, stainless steel and concrete and teak for the interior.  The reddish exterior concrete was developed with the same components used in Roman Pozzolana architecture, one of Kahn¹s favorite architectural time period.  The exterior teak plywood was three-quarter inch exterior type; the details of the final product required the wood to be sanded and finished with top coats of catalyzed polyurethane resin.  Kahn infused the construction properties with the design properties.  He exposed the steel wires and designed with special consideration in their spacing. The steel wire was extended out beyond the concrete face and cut off and then filled with a lead plug to prevent corrosion of the steel ties.  This permitted the concrete blocks with the reinforced steel wire to have a design quality versus just a constructional identity.  This ²combination of a limited number of materials such as concrete, stainless steel, water, glass,etc,²8 was Kahn¹s expression towards his simplistic approach for an intricate and complicated environment for the scientists.  To Kahn ²design was the Œhow¹ and form was the Œwhat¹ .²9  As seen in image # 8, each of the residences, described as ³double oblique piers²10 faced onto the ocean in order for the scientists to reflect in their thoughts as the tranquil yet restless ocean gently rocked their imagination.  The primary symmetry, in image # 4, of the site is asymmetrical as the central axis of the site is with the residences, court yard, and the labs as they face each other on a North and South axis.  The mechanical building, auxiliary services and visitor parking which were of less importance are placed circumventing the inner more important buildings.  The North and South laboratories were adjoined to the backs of the residences as viewed on the site plan #4.  The axis is open from East and West and facilitates the court yard which is made out of concrete as suggested by Luis Barragan; it was better to leave the court yard without trees and flowers and allow the shape of the open plan to serve as a ³horizontal facade to the sky,²11 as seen in image # 6. The courtyard has a channel of water that is flush with the ground running East to West and spilling out onto a fountain at the West end as seen in image # 7. As one scientist said, ³I find  coming to the institute a source of inspiration, I look at the little stream falling into the ocean, and the big vista, the blue sky, and the beautiful building that frames it, and it fills me with a great sense that today I have to achieve something.²12 Kahn and Salk agreed that the ocean and sky should be available to serve as an inspiration to the scientist during their periods of rest and this connection between the scientist and the nature would have made both Kahn and Salk extremely pleased.

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