Louis Kahn: The Salk Institute And Kimbell Art Museum Essay

Published: 2021-06-29 01:48:49
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Louis Kahn was a genius beyond his time. His idea of silence and light separates his architecture from anyone else in history. The ideas spawned by his work challenged many theories before and beyond his time. He used plainness, light and location to shape the design of his buildings. Another concept that was heavily practiced by Kahn, was the use of served and servant spaces. The servant spaces usually housed the lighting, plumbing, and any other entity that made the building functional.
On the other hand, the served spaces were the rooms like the laboratories and study rooms which are given functionality through the servant spaces (Manrique, 11/08/04). This concept was practiced through out most of Kahn’s career, but is most notable in his ingenious designs of the Salk Institute and Kimbell Art Museum. The Salk Institute located in La Jolla California is of the most unusual nature. The building is set up into two large towers separated by a large concrete courtyard. The building is arranged in this way because one side of it faces the ocean and Salk wanted every scientist to have view of the ocean (Silence and Light, 1997).
The floors of the towers alternated between floors used for lab work and floors used for studying. This separation promoted a boundary between labor and contemplation. The Vierendeels used to create a column-free transverse plan created “full-height loft spaces for pipe and ductwork” (Stoller, 6). These loft spaces were hidden behind large triangles on the ceiling and act as the servant to the labs and studies below. Every room was arranged in this manner creating an overall plan of “servant spaces atop spaces served” (Steele, 15).
These servant spaces act like “the arteries, veins and nervous system giving life to the cerebral function of the laboratories and studios” (Stoller, 6). Another example of a servant space is in the way Kahn opened the base of the towers. The openness of the base floors serves as an arcade to the courtyard. This classical idea is derived from the Romans and Kahn uses it to further his concept of servant and served spaces. The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas is another building that was highly influenced by the concept of servant and served spaces.
From the outside, the museum looks like a nuclear power plant. But as you enter the building you are transposed into a world derived totally from natural light. In this building it is a common trait to say that the low spaces were servant to the higher spaces. This is most seen in the design of the five unusual arched art galleries. The silvery glass contraption at the top of the arch lets in all of the natural light and serves as the focal point of the room. Kahn designed the arches in this manner to reflect the natural light and to enhance the focal point of the galleries (Brawne, 92).
Served and servant spaces was a logical concept that has now been adapted by many architects. This concept allows for every part of the building to have a purpose and nothing is left out in the final design. It was no different in the Salk Institute and the Kimbell Art Museum. Every entity of the buildings shape and mold the general purpose that the building serves. Question 2 The tectonic qualities that Louis Kahn incorporates into his architecture allude to many Brutalist notions and are simplistic in nature. The purpose of the tectonic qualities was to develop the overall character of the building.
Kahn’s use of building materials are very important tectonic qualities that shape the designs of the Salk Institute and the Kimbell Art Museum. While examining the exterior of the Kimbell Art Museum, one can immediately recognize the unusual design of the building. There are many tectonic qualities found in the building but none compare to the vaulted galleries and the serene courtyard. The glass slit in the middle of the vaulted galleries allowed the rooms to be completely illuminated by natural light throughout the majority of the day (Brawne).
The unique design of the galleries not on only supplied nature light but also dispersed it throughout the room while not allowing direct contact with the works of art below. Kahn used this idea to take advantage of the abundance of sun light during the long days in Texas (Silence and Light, 1997). The second tectonic feature of the museum that attracts a lot of attention is the courtyard located adjacent to the building. The use of glass, water, concrete, gravel, travertine, and wood tie the building to its surroundings. In the courtyard, Kahn uses concrete, travertine, and gravel to give the visitor three unique feels of footing.
These changes in footing are used to create an atmosphere that is ever changing. Kahn also incorporates trees and a reflecting pond to further emphasize the tectonic quality of tranquility in the courtyard (Silence and Light, 1997). The unique tectonic qualities found in the Salk Institute are much different than those found in the Kimbell Art Museum. In the construction of the building Kahn focused on a more brutalist approach to the tectonic qualities. Kahn illustrates these qualities in the building materials that he uses for the exterior and in the construction of the central courtyard.
The tectonic qualities that are most easily seen in the Salk Institute are the use of unfinished concrete and exposed metal bolts joining the concrete to its metal frame (Brawne). Another tectonic quality of the institute is the central promenade that connects the two large horizontal structures. This plaza was originally planned to be filled with trees but Kahn changed his mind after meeting with Mexican architect Luis Barragan who said, “I would not but a tree or a blade of grass in this space. This should be a plaza of stone, not a garden” (Silence and Light, 1997).
Kahn embraced this idea and created a concrete courtyard with a stream cutting through the middle of it. The concrete courtyard allows for the sky to reflect off of its surface and enhance the overall character of the building. It also connects the building to its surrounds by creating a path way from land out to the forever stretching ocean. By creating this “fa? “§ade to the sky,” Louis Kahn created perhaps the best example of tectonics that can be seen today. This plaza is the very character of the building, and gives a breath-taking view of the Pacific Ocean (Silence and Light, 1997).

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