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Louis Kahn: The Salk Institute and Kimbell Art Museum

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Louis Kahn: The Salk Institute and Kimbell Art Museum

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

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