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The Salk Institute of San Diego in four points 

The setting for the Louis Vuitton cruise show, the brutalist building was designed by American architect Louis Kahn to house a research center.

A Sustainable Space: John Salk, who initiated the center, which opened in 1960, asked Kahn to create spacious, uncluttered laboratory spaces that could be adapted to the ever-changing needs of science. Building materials had to be durable, simple, strong and require as little maintenance as possible. To meet this criteria, concrete, teak, lead, glass, and steel were chosen. 

A concrete with ancient inspirations: Kahn turned to the Roman era to rediscover the waterproof qualities and warm, dewy glow of “pozzolanic” concrete. Once the concrete sets, it requires no further treatment. The architect also chose an unfinished look for the teak surrounding the study towers and west office windows, and requested that nothing be applied to the teak. 

Mirrored Structure: The building consists of two mirrored structures, both six stories high, that flank a large travertine courtyard. The towers that project into the courtyard provide study space for senior faculty. At the west end are six floors of offices overlooking the Pacific Ocean. 

Natural Light: Salk’s request was that the Institute be a welcoming and inspiring environment for scientific research. So Kahn flooded the labs with daylight, building all exterior walls with large double-glazed windows to create an open, airy work environment. Even the underground spaces were lit by skylights.

Lisa Agostini

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