#ArchiTalks 25 "architecture of change..."

This post was originally published on April 10, 2017. 
edited on April 10, 2020

"I have had dreams and I have had nightmares, but I have conquered my nightmares because of my dreams."

(jonas salk)

I was told by the guest editor of this post that this was supposed to be about how we see that our world and the profession are constantly changing and how does architecture do this.   I think the profession is changing because we have to change or we won’t grow as a profession.  I think I have written about this before and I did a podcast with Mark LePage of EntreArchitect recently if you want to listen to it.  It basically says that we can practice architecture in a lot of different ways in order to be an equitable and empathetic profession .   

I think I also had to write a paper on this in architecture school, I can remember that I wrote that architecture could change the world.  Years later....

I am not quite sure that architecture, per se, changes the world, i think it is the people who commission the work or the people who inhabit it or the people who use the space that is critical to how change and what type of change happens as far as the architecture goes.  I would love to think that architecture really does change the world but I think it is a whole process that includes many factors that bring about the change.  

And being involved in city arts and planning commission and volunteering at the schools, there are a lot of things that people want to change.  It is usually brought up in this way, “i think that there should be, (insert perceived problem here) and that it would be better if (insert perceived person (s) or solution (s) and I say,

“that is a great idea, I will get right on it”

No, I don’t say that.  

I say,

“That is a great idea, and I think that you should head up a committee to implement it”

So anyways, back to the architecture of change…

I am fortunate enough to live in a locale where i am in close proximity to a place where though there are not a lot of what i would consider to be great works, there are some pretty significant great works.  Not close proximity, but closer than most who don’t live in Southern California or as we say around here, “About 30 minutes, without traffic”.  

When most architects are asked, “what is one of your favorite buildings?”  I would like to say a good fifty percent say,

Image: Courtesy of the Jonas Salk Legacy Foundation

the Salk Institute

And i bring it up because I think it is Architecture of Change.

And I admit, it is a very good piece of architecture, and i am sure that the client/architect/donor design process was not an easy task.

But when you look at the architecture, it is, in my opinion, really second to the plaza and to the view.  

A few weeks ago, I went to the Salk Institute, now they are making it very hard now to really see the courtyard because of security and the place is getting a whole restoration right now, so don’t come thinking you are going to get those classic shots, you will be getting the shots of black construction material draped over the workers to keep all the dirt on themselves and the cloth and not going out onto the native vegetation and waterways and ocean.

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Several years ago, the AIA San Diego held their design awards at the Salk in the newer building in the front, the addition, of which was an entire controversy in of itself.

The problem with holding an event there was that nobody wanted to come inside and actually see what their contemporaries had won awards for, they all wanted to watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.  

And I don’t believe it has been held there since.

From the Salk Institute website:

We explore the very foundations of life for the benefit of all.

In 1957, Jonas Salk, developer of the first safe and effective polio vaccine, began his quest to fulfill his second dream: create a collaborative environment where researchers could explore the basic principles of life and contemplate the wider implications of their discoveries for the future of humanity.
Gifted with 27 acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean by the City of San Diego in 1960, Salk partnered with architect Louis Kahn to design such a research center. He summarized his aesthetic objectives by telling Kahn to “create a facility worthy of a visit by Picasso.”
With financial support from the National Foundation/March of Dimes, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies opened its doors in 1963. In addition to Salk, the first Resident Fellows were Jacob Bronowski, Melvin Cohn, Renato Dulbecco, Edwin Lennox and Leslie Orgel. The Nonresident Fellows were Leo Szilard, Francis Crick, Salvador Luria, Jacques Monod and Warren Weaver.
The major study areas are aging and regenerative medicine, cancer biology, immune system biology, metabolism and diabetes, neuroscience and neurological disorders and plant biology. Salk research provides new understanding and potential treatments for a range of diseases, from AIDS and Alzheimer’s to cancer and cardiovascular disorders. Discoveries by plant biologists are paving the way to improving the quality and quantity of the world’s food supply and to addressing critical environmental problems, including global warming.
The Institute is supported by research grants from the National Institutes of Health, private foundations and individuals who value scientific trailblazing. The March of Dimes, which has backed the Institute since its inception, continues to contribute financially every year.
As its first director, Salk said of his eponymous institute: “The Salk Institute is a curious place, not easily understood, and the reason for it is that this is a place in the process of creation. It is being created and is engaged in studies of creation. We cannot be certain what will happen here, but we can be certain it will contribute to the welfare and understanding of man.”
For more details about the history of the Salk Institute, click here for information about the “Genesis of The Salk Institute”. Written by Suzanne Bourgeois, Professor Emerita and Founding Director of the Regulatory Biology Laboratory at the Salk Institute.

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The buildings are very utilitarian, the concrete is beautifully formed and one can see from the programming of the spaces, that they were very much meant to be used as they are, architecture for discovery of the sciences.  The courtyard is grander than the buildings with its travertine stone vastness.  But when you look to the west, across the courtyard, when you follow the water,as just a trickle in a reservoir that silently flows to the end where you see it plunge down to the terrace below in a way that mimics the crashing waves that pound the beach far below.  And looking at the vastness of the ocean and the sun that sets in front of you, You can see that the answers are all out there, and even with unexpected setbacks, we just have to be the catalyst for change that will find them.

Image from Salk Institute Facebook

Be the change you want to be in the world.

If you would like to read about other architects who want to change the world, please follow and read the links below:

P.S. edited in March 2020

change is happening here, i can feel it...

I am now offering sponsorship opportunities and I am grateful for that. Please contact me via my website below for more information.


Bob Borson - Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Matthew Stanfield - FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
ArchiTalks : Architecture of Change
Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
architecture for change
Mark R. LePage - EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)
Evan Troxel - Archispeak Podcast / TRXL (@etroxel)
Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Architect(ure) of Change
Collier Ward - One More Story (@BuildingContent)
Architecture of Change
Cormac Phalen - Cormac Phalen (@archy_type)
Nicholas Renard - Renard Architecture (@dig-arch)
Andrew Hawkins, AIA - Hawkins Architecture, Inc. (@hawkinsarch)
Jeremiah Russell, AIA - ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
architecture of change: #architalks
Jes Stafford - MODwelling (@modarchitect)
Cindy Black - Rick & Cindy Black Architects (*)
Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Change -- The Document Evolution
Rosa Sheng - EquitybyDesign [EQxD] (@EquityxDesign)
Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
architecture of change
Meghana Joshi - IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Amy Kalar - ArchiMom (@AmyKalar)
Michael Riscica - Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
Stephen Ramos - BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
brady ernst - Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
The Architecture of Change: R/UDAT
Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Architecture = Change
Michael LaValley - Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
My Architecture of Change / Hitting Pause to Redesign My Life
Jonathan Brown - Proto-Architecture (@mondo_tiki_man)
Eric Wittman - intern[life] (@rico_w)
Sharon George - Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
Brinn Miracle - Architangent (@architangent)
Architecture of Change: Building a Legacy
David Molinaro - Relax2dmax (@relax2dmax)
Emily Grandstaff-Rice - Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Daniel Beck - The Architect's Checklist (@archchecklist)
Jarod Hall - di'velept (@divelept)
Anthony Richardson - That Architecture Student (@thatarchstudent)
Lindsey Rhoden - SPARC Design (@sparcdesignpc)
Drew Paul Bell - Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Greg Croft - Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
Courtney Casburn Brett - Casburn Brett (@CasburnBrett)
Jeffrey Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Imagining the Future of Architecture
Aaron Bowman - Product & Process (@PP_Podcast)
Samantha R. Markham - The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
3 Things I Hope Change in Architecture
Kyu Young Kim - J&K Atelier (@sokokyu)
Nisha Kandiah - ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
The art of Architecture of Change
Karen E. Williams - (@karenewilliams3)
Jared W. Smith - Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL)
Rusty Long - Rusty Long, Architect (@rustylong)
Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Adam Denais - Defragging Architecture (@DefragArch)
Jim Mehaffey - Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Ken Saginario - Twelfth Street Studio ()
Tim Ung - Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
Mark Stephens - Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
The Architecture of Change


  1. Michele, thanks for sharing your insights about Louis Kahn's work at the Salk Institute.


    1. Thanks Collier! I think that the Salk considers the courtyard to be the most precious part of the building as that is the only part that is the most secured space, (probably for all those pesky architects that show up daily) the buildings on the exterior of the campus are always available to take photos of.

  2. Sometimes, architects are smart enough to keep buildings out of the way of nature, views, etc. Nicely stated.

    1. Thanks James, i've always wondered why he didn't move it closer to the cliff, maybe they weren't given that land and it remains owned by city parks, i should probably check that out, or there was just a better access to the utilities if they were closer to the main road. if you know, let me know!


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