The Institute has consistently ranked among the nation's best research institutions and currently includes numerous Nobel laureates among its faculty. The Institute focuses primarily on three areas: neurosciences, plant biology, and molecular biology and genetics. More than 800 researchers are employed by the Institute.
The Salk Institute is famous not only for the quality of its scientific research, but for its striking architecture. The campus was designed by architect Louis Kahn, who, like Salk, was the son of Jewish immigrants from the former Russian empire--Salk from Russia and Kahn from Estonia. The two men had a connection that went beyond the normal architect-client relationship; both envisioned the Institute as an inspiring, contemplative space.
To achieve this vision, Kahn studied monasteries for the institute he imagined as an intellectual retreat. The campus has abundant natural light and the six floors of offices all face the Pacific Ocean. Volcanic ash was mixed into the concrete used for the buildings, which gives them a warm, pinkish glow, particularly in the sun.
Between the two buildings is a courtyard made of travertine marble, divided by a single strip of water which leads the eye toward the Pacific Ocean. The intent behind the courtyard's design, beyond creating a contemplative space, was to remind visitors of their scale compared to the vastness of the ocean.