the berggruen institute, an independent think tank based in california, has unveiled plans for a new campus overlooking los angeles. the project, which has been designed by swiss firm herzog & de meuron, has been conceived as a ‘landscape vision’ with the development preserving more than 90% of the 447-acre site as open space. comprising meeting and study spaces, scholars’ residences, and gardens, the low-density complex is to be built along the existing contours of a barren mountain ridge in the santa monica mountains.

herzog de meuron berggruen institute
the ‘frame’ encloses a large courtyard garden and a spherical lecture hall
image © herzog & de meuron (also main image)

 

 

founded in 2010 by philanthropist and investor nicolas berggruen, the berggruen institute seeks to ‘provide critical analysis and new ideas that will shape political, economic and social institutions.’ imagined as a linear park, herzog & de meuron’s masterplan for the campus provides a private educational forum where scholars can interact with leaders of their respective fields. the scheme intends to make use of the site’s existing infrastructure in order to leave the surrounding natural landscape undisturbed.

herzog de meuron berggruen institute
the campus has been conceived as a ‘landscape vision’
image © herzog & de meuron

 

 

referred to as ‘the frame’, the campus’ primary facility is suspended 12 feet (3.7 meters) above the ground at the southern end of the site’s eastern ridge. enclosing a large courtyard garden, the elevated building contains the site’s main functions of studying, living, and convening in one level with occasional mezzanine spaces. other amenities include live-work lofts, meeting rooms, study spaces, offices, artists’ studios, media zones, and dining and reception areas.

herzog de meuron berggruen institute
residential units are built on either side of a wide, landscaped promenade
image © herzog & de meuron

 

 

a sphere within the courtyard houses a 250-seat lecture hall, while a second smaller sphere, which sits atop the frame, serves as a water storage tank. to the north, a residential component offers approximately 26,000 square feet of accommodation for scholars and guests, as well as support services and recreational facilities. 15 units, each with extensive outdoor space, are built on either side of a wide, landscaped promenade, with courtyard residences recessed into the landscape.

herzog de meuron berggruen institute
the low-density complex is to be built along the existing contours of a barren mountain ridge
image © herzog & de meuron

 

 

the final part of the campus is the ‘chairman’s residence’, a compound that includes a library, conference room, dining and catering facilities and staff quarters, as well as residences. immediately to the north, a heavily landscaped area provides a buffer zone between the institute and the neighboring mountaingate community, just 250 feet away.

herzog de meuron berggruen institute
site plan illustrating the campus’ three primary components
image © herzog & de meuron

 

 

in order to preserve the existing landscape, a number of sustainable features have been incorporated. the need for mechanical systems is reduced thanks to passive measures such as shaded overhangs, cross ventilation, and thermal mass, while tree canopies provide external areas of shade. additionally, a water management system irrigates the landscape and gardens. low-energy lighting systems, electric vehicle charging stations, and renewable energy sources further reduce the development’s environmental impact.

herzog de meuron berggruen institute
the ‘frame’ is joined by the scholar village and the chairman’s residence
image © herzog & de meuron

 

 

‘the berggruen institute’s architecture is intertwined with a specific landscape concept,’ explains jacques herzog of herzog & de meuron. ‘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.’

 

the berggruen institute has submitted plans for the project to the city of los angeles, initiating the environmental review process.

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