The Architect's Eye: Highlighting Louis Kahn's Salk Institute in La Jolla

Photo credit: Lee F. Mindel
Photo credit: Lee F. Mindel

Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, is a modern marvel, integrating architecture, landscape and science into a seamless design. It was founded in 1960 by Jonas Salk, the developer of the polio vaccine. Reportedly, the scientist's instructions to Louis Kahn, the campus's architect, were simple: “Create a facility worthy of a visit by Picasso.”

It also needed to attract the best researchers in the world. It did.

Photo credit: Lee F. Mindel

What the campus achieves in its breathtaking design, it also realizes in its nearly 60 years of cutting-edge research on diseases such as AIDS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, making it one of the world’s most important biomedical institutes.

While Jonas Salk may not be not alive today to witness the COVID-19 pandemic, his son, Jonathan Salk, released a piece this week for The Hill titled, “What Jonas Salk would have said about COVID-19?” In it, he includes the following inspiring message:

“There is more to eradicating disease than science alone. It also involves human-to-human social, political and economic relationships. If he were here now, he would implore us to remember what made it possible to defeat polio: a national effort to develop and test the vaccine and a world-wide effort to make vaccination available to everyone without profit. The same thing that prompted the advancement of medical science 65 years ago, might lead us now to advance social evolution toward a healthier, more cooperative, interdependent world where we can not only survive but thrive—if we only listen.”