Sunday, April 22, 2007


Reason number 75847 that my grandparents are rad-when they took my cousin Jessica and me on a trip to San Diego when we were 14 they took us to Sea World AND the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

The Salk Institute is a research facility in La Jolla founded by Jonas Salk, the inventor of the polio vaccine. His goal was to build a facility that would attract the best science brains in the world that would also be "worthy of a visit from Picasso. Architect Louis Kahn did a pretty perfect job of creating such a building on a spot of land on the impossibly beautiful Torry Pines Mesa in La Jolla.

Even as a fourteen year old, I knew this place was special. The first time I went back as a grownup I was actually moved to tears. So this weekend I was in San Diego and decided to take a little visit.

Unfortunately the inner court is closed on the weekend and the security guard on duty was completely immune to all of my charming attempts to let me in anyway. The back of building however, is NOT locked so I did get to see at least a little bit.

I don't know, maybe this would actually be considered the front.
Because it looks out over this

See how the wings are staggered like that? Kahn didn't want any of the offices to miss out on the spectacular view of the ocean. So they don't.
What I didn't get to see this weekend was the inner court area which looks like this:

Like a lot of amazing architecture, you really need to be IN it to understand but what I always feel when I come here is how seamlessly the man made building blends in with it's natural surroundings. When you stand in the inner court it looks as though the stream is running right into the ocean. I think that much concrete could seem cold and industrial but it is one of the most peaceful and serene places I have ever been. And there is a little part of me that is so delighted that this stretch of what I am sure is astronomically prime real estate is a place I can visit anytime I want to.

I sat for a long time just taking in how spectactular it all was.

As I was leaving there was this sign on one of the doors that for some reason made me giggle.

Even in a famous research center there is a reminder to take off your dirty lab coat before you come in!

Southern California can sometimes feel like such a strip mall and suburban wasteland that I love being driving distance from a structure like this. If you ever go to San Diego, put it on your list. It doesn't disappoint, even when you can't get in!

1 comment:

Jayne said...

I do love that place - the first time I saw it it felt to me like something that had been created by nature herself - a big boulder with benefits. Since my first visit they have made the large rolling windows smaller so that no errant scientists fall out on to the courtyard - a bit of a compromise to the sheer beauty - but I guess that scientists can't be trusted to stand back...