Herzog & de Meuron, in collaboration with Michel Desvigne Paysagiste, Inessa Hansch and executive architect Gensler, have revealed designs for a new “Scholars’ Campus” for global think tank the Berggruen Institute to be located in the Santa Monica Mountains overlooking the city of Los Angeles.
Inspired by the designs of traditional monasteries and hilltop villages, the scheme is rooted in the restoration and appreciation of the landscape. Along with the series of structures containing the Institue’s residence, meeting and study spaces, over 90% of the 447-acre site will be preserved as natural open space.
“The mission of the Institute is to develop and encourage new ideas for a changing world and to propose practical solutions that can transform society—and humanity—for the better,” said Institue founder Nicolas Berggruen. “By building our campus here on the Pacific coast, we hope to advance the position of Los Angeles as a world center for ideas, linking the East to the West. By commissioning this visionary design from Herzog & de Meuron, we demonstrate our intention to make an important contribution to the architecture of Los Angeles and the world.”
The project site is located along a mountain ridge that was flattened in the 1980s as a landfill cap. The extreme topographical limits of the site shaped the campus into a linear path dotted with landscaped gardens. Filled with local flora, these areas help to collect and filter water for reuse. Existing public hiking trails crossing over the site will be incorporated into the campus design, enhancing access to the Institute.
The 137,000-square-foot main facility is placed at the southern end of the ridge, a concrete structure hovering 12 feet above the ground and framing panoramic views of the city and landscape. Here, the main living, studying and meeting spaces feature on one level, with mezzanine spaces interspersed throughout, providing accommodation for up to 26 Scholars-in-Residence units and 14 Visiting Scholars. A central sphere rising 45 feet beyond the roofline of the frame will serve as the beacon of the site, as well as hous a 250-seat lecture theater.
Further north, the “Scholar Village” will offer 26,000 square feet of residential spaces featuring generous private outdoor areas and living gardens. At the northern end of the campus, a 26,000-square-foot single-story compound known as the “Chairman’s Residence” will contain a library, conference room, dining and catering areas and additional residential areas. A heavily landscaped area of the north side of the building will act as a buffer between the Institute and the nearby residential community.
“The Berggruen Institute's architecture is intertwined with a specific landscape concept.” said Jacques Herzog. “The rough coastal scrubs and woodlands on the hills and ridges of the property within the Santa Monica mountain range will be juxtaposed with an abundance of specific and diverse gardened areas. The current barren ridge where the campus will be sited is transformed into a self-sustainable oasis by means of a water system within the Institute's campus based on harvesting, collection, cleaning and re-use.”
“Such transformative, immediate impact is also what the Institute and its fellows aim to achieve through their work on today's most urgent concern: the economic, political and ecological imbalance in our societies between scarcity and plenty.”
Plans for the project have been submitted to the City of Los Angeles for environmental review. A timeline for construction is yet to be announced.