Plans unveiled Wednesday offer a first glimpse at one of LA’s most ambitious and mysterious new development projects: a new campus for the Berggruen Institute, a think tank started by billionaire investor and philanthropist Nicolas Berggruen.
The Herzog & de Meuron-designed project will overlook the city from a massive 447-acre hilltop site near Mountain Gate Country Club in the Santa Monica Mountains.
An announcement from the institute indicates that the bulk of that land, which was flattened in the 1980s to cover a landfill, would be preserved as open space. Most construction would be confined to the southern end of the site’s east-facing ridge, where a 137,000-square-foot facility would rise just 12 feet above ground level.
The low-slung structure would wrap around a central courtyard with a 250-seat spherical lecture hall at its nucleus. This structure would rise 45 feet above the surrounding building, to very dramatic effect. Another towering sphere would serve as a water storage system.
According to a statement from Herzog & de Meuron, the two spheres (visible in renderings of the project) represent “the socio-cultural and ecological ambitions of the Institute.”
The futuristic campus would also include 26,000-square-foot residential complex with 15 units for visiting scholars (further housing would also be provided in the frame building surrounding the lecture hall).
A separate 26,000-square-foot compound called “the Chairman’s Residence” would include residential and dining facilities, along with a library and conference room.
Much of the open space on the project site would be developed with a “linear park or gardened plinth” with drought-tolerant landscaping and a system for collecting and reusing water, according to the institute.
Under the proposed plans, hiking trails around the campus would be “maintained and enhanced” to provide access to the facility.
Berggruen, who recently purchased the former Holmby Hills estate of Hollywood socialite Edith Goetz, is also planning a second outpost for his institute near MacArthur Park.
That facility, says Berggruen, represents “a community investment and commitment to Los Angeles—specifically MacArthur Park, a neighborhood which reflects both local and global challenges of urbanization.”
Berggruen tells the LA Times that the larger hilltop campus could be complete within five years.