Getty team launches conservation study of Kahn’s Salk Institute

Architect Louis I. Kahn's Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla is the subject of a new Getty Conservation Institute project. At the center of the conservation team's work are the teak "window walls."
(New Yorker Films )

The Getty Conservation Institute has announced that it is partnering with the Salk Institute in La Jolla to preserve a pillar of mid-20th century Modern architecture.

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies was completed in 1965, the collaboration of polio vaccine developer Jonas Salk and architect Louis I. Kahn. Due to its position on a scenic bluff above the Pacific Ocean, the concrete and teak building is subject to the punishing rigors of a marine environment.

Of particular interest is the approach that conservationists will take to care for the teak “window walls” for which the structure is known. Their findings will be shared with the preservation community at large.

Taking care of Modern architecture has been a priority for preservationists since the late 1980s, as structures neared 50 years of age.


The Salk Institute, site of scientific research and study, consists of two mirror-image wings that flank a travertine-paved central plaza. The architecture is minimalist, marked by the contrast of utilitarian concrete and the teak windows walls.

The investigation phase of the project has just started and is expected to take 18 months.

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