Think Tank, Not Tanked

Herzog & de Meuron-designed Berggruen Institute campus is moving forward

The main campus buildings will be raised 12 feet above the ground, providing sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and greater Los Angeles. (Courtesy Herzog & de Meuron)

The Berggruen Institute, a political think tank founded by billionaire investor and philanthropist Nicolas Berggruen in 2010, is officially moving ahead with the construction of a headquarters in the Santa Monica Mountains. A $500 million endowment has been set aside for the project the institute is calling a “scholars’ campus,” designed by Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron and the multinational Gensler, all nestled within landscaping designed by Michel Desvigne and Inessa Hansch. In 2017, when the project was first announced, Pierre Herzog of Herzog & de Meuron told the Los Angeles Times that the campus “will be a place of knowledge, of research, of curiosity, and also of some privilege at the same time. It will be something that ideally helps to make our societies work again.”

While the institute owns a 450-acre parcel, it is proposing to build on fewer than 22 acres, leaving roughly 95 percent of the site in its current condition, and the headquarters will be raised 12 feet above the ground on pillars. The 137,000-square-foot campus will include conference spaces, offices, study quarters and other facilities along a square perimeter. Its hard-edged geometry will be contrasted by two spheres—one a 250-seat lecture hall at the project’s center, and the other a water tower on the roof. A residence for Berggruen and his family will be constructed along the northern edge of the site, while a grouping of 15 living units for visiting scholars will be set closer to the campus.

Rendering of a flat plateau with a modernist structure on top

The project will occupy fewer than 22 acres of the site, leaving over 400 acres intact. (Courtesy Herzog & de Meuron)

The campus will also include exhibition spaces to complement the institute’s recently announced Transformations of the Human Program, a research-based initiative for which it has selected ten inaugural Artist Fellows, including Pierre Huyghe, Anicka Yi, Martine Syms, and Kahlil Joseph. “We look forward to the ways the artist fellows will expand our understanding of how our definition of humanity is changing,” Berggruen told the Art Newspaper. “It is also a great pleasure to elevate the role of the arts at the Berggruen Institute by commissioning them to make the first works in our envisioned art collection.”

Once complete, the Berggruen Institute will move from its current location in the Bradbury Building in Downtown Los Angeles to the Santa Monica Mountains to be closer the Getty Center—another campus-like, billionaire-funded development romantically isolated in the mountains.

Related Stories