Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron has revealed renderings for a new 447-acre mountaintop campus for the Berggruen Institute, a policy-focused consortium of think tanks funded by billionaire Nicolas Berggruen.

The complex—made up of a collection of subdued structures that occupy only roughly 10% of the overall site—is being planned to include a private residence for Berggruen’s family, 15 scholars’ residences, and a series of gardens strung along a publically-accessible linear park. The campus is anchored on its southern end by a low-slung research center with views towards Downtown Los Angeles. The campus will be located on a mountaintop that was formerly used as a landfill; the project site consists of a portion of the mountainside that was scraped and flattened in the 1980s in order to cap the landfill. That previously-disturbed 32-acre section of land will contain the development in its entirety, with the remaining 415-acres of the property persisting in a more-or-less natural state.

Plans call for minimal, low-slung structures perched above native landscapes. (Courtesy Herzog & de Meuron)

The linear site is organized with the private residence at its north end, the scholars’ residences at the center, and the linear park and research center at its southern tip. The research center—dubbed “the Institute Frame” by the architects—consists of a rectangular structure containing a large courtyard at its center. The building is lifted 12 feet off the ground and contains a variety of indoor-outdoor connections along the elevated sections. The Frame’s courtyard will contain natural landscaping, a spherical 250-seat lecture hall, and a large reflecting pool, among other components. The frame structure will also house visiting scholars in a collection of apartments, with plans calling for 26 scholars-in-residence units and 14 visiting scholar units. The Frame Institute will also contain meeting rooms, study spaces, offices, artists’ studios, media spaces and dining and reception areas, according to the release.



Regarding the pared-down architectural approach, Jacques Herzog of Herzog & de Meuron told the Los Angeles Times, “We want to use the spheres in the purest possible way, to make them almost immaterial. Not an expression of new technologies or a heroic engineering solution. They shouldn’t show any sign of effort or structural expression. We were just interested in this idea of the purity of the form—in its innocence, so to speak.”

Herzog and de Meuron’s proposal calls for taking up only 10% of the site, leaving the remaining areas as natural habitat. (Courtesy Herzog and de Meuron)

In a press release announcing the project, Nicolas Berggruen stated, “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 complex will be connected via a linear park as well as a collection of public paths. (Courtesy Herzog and de Meuron)

Gensler will work as the executive architect on the project, with landscape design to be performed by Michel Desvigne Paysagiste and Inessa Hansch Architecte. Although the project has already begun initial planning review, a timeline for the project has not been released.

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