Think Tank Reveals Renderings For Sprawling 'Monastery' On Top Of Santa Monica Mountains

The Berggruen Institute, a think tank founded by billionaire investor Nicolas Berggruen, has revealed renderings for its forthcoming campus in the Santa Monica Mountains.

The 447-acre development is set just north of the Getty Center on a hilltop near the Mountain Gate Country Club overlooking the 405 freeway. The project, designed by architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron is scheduled to open in five years "if we don’t run into too much trouble,” Berggruen told the Los Angeles Times.

Berggruen is the son of German art collector Heinz Berggruen, and the founder and president of Berggruen Holdings—a multinational investment firm. In 2010, Berggruen founded the Berggruen Institute as a non-partisan think tank with the aim of developing ideas to shape social, economic, and political institutions. In May 2016, the institute announced its plans to open a new campus on the ridge. Berggruen described the campus to Bloomberg as a "'secular monastery’ for scholars to live, work and host meetings on topics ranging from philosophy to rethinking government,” notes Curbed LA.

According to a press release, a majority of the site's acreage will remain untouched wilderness, while the built campus will consist of three main sections: the Institute Building, Scholar Village, and the Chairman's Residence.

On the northern edge of the ridge, the 26,000-square-foot Chairman's Residence will house a private residence for Berggruen and his family. Immediately south is the 15-unit Scholar Village. "Fellows with families as well as short-term visiting scholars live here in single-story courtyard buildings," the release continues. Finally, a 137,000-square-foot structure, referred to as the Frame, will be lifted 12 feet above the ground, and comprise the majority of the Institute Building. "In line with monastery tradition, the majority of the fellows study, convene, share meals and sleep within the Institute Building," adds the release. The Frame will surround a central courtyard and two spheres—the larger of the two spheres will house a 250-seat lecture hall, while the smaller sphere will hold a water reservoir system.

Jacques Herzog, co-founder of Herzog & de Meuron, described the aesthetic of the campus as “basic, very archaic”, using mostly concrete and untreated wood, notes the Times. “We want to make a contribution to a sustainable way of building," he continued. "This place is very specific to Los Angeles, in the good sense but also in a not-so-good one—lacking water, and all these things.”

Earlier this year, the Berggruen Institute announced a satellite office set to open in the next two years along Seventh Street near MacArthur Park.

“What we’re building in the mountains is a fairly quiet place,” Berggruen told the Times. “We wanted another location that will be better for public engagement."