Hilltop L.A. campus preserves over 90% of its 447-acre site as open space

The Berggruen Institute, a think tank founded in 2010 by philanthropist and investor Nicolas Berggruen, recently unveiled plans for a new Los Angeles campus designed by Herzog & de Meuron. The low-density campus will be built on a site in the eastern portion of the Santa Monica Mountains and comprise meeting and study spaces, scholars’ residences, and gardens.

The campus will be built along a mountain ridge that was scraped and flattened in the 1980s to cap a landfill. The ridge will be turned into a linear park or a gardened plinth landscaped with drought-resistant plants.

Herzog & de Meuron’s design is as much a landscape vision as an architectural project. The campus will concentrate development within previously graded areas to limit topographic changes. In addition, 415 acres of the 447-acre site will be preserved as open space. The campus will also make use of infrastructure that is already in place, such as Serpentine Road, which will connect Sepulveda Boulevard to the Institute’s main entrance. Existing public hiking trails will be maintained and improved and provide access to the Institute campus.

The new campus’s main facility will be built on the far southern end of the site’s eastern ridge. A horizontal structure, dubbed the Frame, will “hover” 12 feet above the ground and be supported by just a few building elements. A large courtyard garden will exist at the center of the main building while the main functions of studying, living, and convening are located within the Frame on one level with occasional mezzanine spaces. A collection of live-work lofts, meeting rooms, study spaces, offices, artists’ studios, media spaces, dining areas, and reception areas will all exist within the Frame.

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