Salk Institute Tour: Contemplating Concrete Construction in La Jolla

Combining Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute with a tour of Irving Gill designed buildings in La Jolla, Chattel studied how first and second generation Modernists expressed themselves through concrete construction.  

Joined by architectural historian and La Jolla resident Diane Kane, the first stop was the Salk Institute, designed by Louis Kahn and completed in 1965.

Iconic view of the courtyard.  Little did we know that the courtyard doesn't drop off into the ocean.
Like so much of Kahn’s oeuvre, the buildings frankly express the board-form concrete in combination with teak and glass accents and travertine central courtyard.

Building off of lessons learned at the Richard’s Medical Research Laboratory (1957) on the University of Pennsylvania Campus, Kahn horizontally separated served and servant spaces at the Salk Institute. Interstitial servant spaces carry structural loads for the buildings, as well as mechanical equipment with breakout panels, allowing for ease of replacement.
Drawing of served and servant spaces.
Chattel staff pose for a group photo.
After a delicious lunch (from the La Jolla Cheese Shop), Diane presented a background of Irving Gill’s work in La Jolla and his collaboration with Ellen Browning Scripps and landscape architect Kate Sessions.  

Our tour of Gills' collaboration with Scripps included Scripps Institute of Oceanography (1908), Gill’s first work in monolithic concrete.

The La Jolla Woman's Club (1913) successfully used tilt-slap construction, while the front arcade has been stripped of applied decoration.

Ellen Scripps' home (1915) has been reused by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, with an addition designed by Venturi Scott Brown.
Similar to the La Jolla Women's Club, the La Jolla Recreation center (1913) continues Gill's use of tilt-slab construction and exhibits his typical simplicity.