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

Higher Education

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

The Los Angeles campus is being built at a site in the eastern portion of the Santa Monica Mountains.

By David Malone, Associate Editor | August 31, 2017
Rendering of the Berggruen Institute on its hilltop site

Rendering courtesy of Herzog & de Meuron

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.


An aerial shot of the Berggruen Institute on its hilltop siteRendering courtesy of Herzog & de Meuron.


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.


The courtyard and the sphere on the Berggruen Institute campusRendering courtesy of Herzog & de Meuron.


A sphere that sits within the courtyard and contains a 250-seat lecture hall will become the tallest structure on the Berggruen Institute campus, rising 45 feet above the roofline of the Frame.  A second, smaller sphere sits atop the Frame and serves as a water storage tank. When combined with the lecture hall, the frame offers a total of 137,000 sf with 26 Scholars-in-Residence units and 14 Visiting Scholars units.


Rendering of some of the landscaped paths around the Berggruen InstituteRendering courtesy of Herzog & de Meuron.


North of the frame will exist the second main element of the campus; Scholar Village, 26,000 sf of residential use for scholars and guests. The third and final main element is located on the northern end of the eastern ridge and is dubbed the Chairman’s Residence. The Chairman’s Residence is a 26,000-sf compound that includes a library, conference room, dining and catering facilities, and staff quarters. Just north of the Chairman’s Residence is a heavily landscaped area that serves as a buffer zone between the Institute and the neighboring MountainGate community.


Rendering of landscaped gardens at the Berggruen InstituteRendering courtesy of Herzog & de Meuron.

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