A World-Class Campus for the World’s Best Thinkers
The Berggruen Institute vision for the Scholars Campus is to create a leading research center that brings together the world’s top thinkers to study the most pressing issues of our time.
This contemplative campus will serve as headquarters for the Berggruen Institute research, programs, and dialogue: a space for scholars to study, collaborate, and exchange ideas with academics and thought leaders.
At the heart of our project is a desire to preserve the natural landscape in the Santa Monica Mountains, respect existing open space and trail easements, make hiking trails more accessible, and achieve fire safety goals in the area.
We are committed to preserving the vast majority of the property’s 447 acres as open space.
Our design team is led by internationally renowned architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron with L.A. visionaries Mia Lehrer of Studio MLA designing the landscape and trails concepts and Gensler serving as the lead local architect.
The Berggruen Institute is an independent research organization in Los Angeles dedicated to improving governance and cross-cultural understanding.
Given the pressing issues of our time – a global pandemic, an evolving economic crisis, historic social unrest, and a raging climate crisis – the work of the Institute has never been more timely or urgent.
The main purpose of the Scholars Campus is to house the Institute’s research activities and facilitate joint scholarship among academics. This model allows academics to come from their universities to the Scholars Campus and be given the time they need, separate from daily classroom and lecture responsibilities, to delve into their research.
The Campus will provide them with facilities which you would expect on an educational campus including living quarters, dining hall, a library, research spaces, and small meeting areas to engage in discussions focused on their study. There will also be a small lecture hall with a 250-seat capacity for lectures, talks, workshops and academic symposia to promote dialogue and spur new ideas.
Key Project Elements:
- A main Institute building with study spaces for scholars, a library, a 250-seat lecture hall, offices, and dining facilities.
- Residential quarters for visiting scholars and scholars-in-residence.
- Gardens and landscaped outdoor spaces.
- More than 420 acres of open space.
The Scholars Village will feature a series of small one- and two-bedroom dwellings where visiting academics can stay for a limited time while engaged in scholarship at the Institute. This area will include numerous gardens, outdoor spaces and recreation areas.
The 405 corridor is already home to leading centers for academia, art, culture and thinking anchored by such leading institutions as the Getty Center, the Skirball Cultural Center, UCLA, American Jewish University, Mount St. Mary’s and Milken Community Schools.
The project design is driven by a strong commitment to do what’s best for the land and deliver substantial public benefits.
Fire Prevention & Protection
Our approach to the Scholars Campus is to design a project that brings significant value to the entire community. This includes a best-in-class fire safety program for the protection of not only the campus, but also our neighbors, fire service personnel, and the Santa Monica Mountains overall.
We built a team with leading fire prevention, protection and control experts, including former LA Fire Chief William Bamattre and the experts behind the fire-resistant attributes of the Getty Center.
The team is tasked with delivering a plan that incorporates lessons learned from recent fires and can serve as a regional model of fire protection and prevention strategies.
As part of this plan, the Institute is committed to allocating resources to remove any potential fuel sources, such as non-native and dead plants, within the 425 acres of protected open space that’s part of our property. We will also perform erosion control to help offset any potential mudslides. This is an essential service that helps protect this entire area from fire.
At the center of our architectural design is a concealed onsite water tank with a 60,000-gallon capacity to help firefighters more efficiently fight fires on our site and for our neighbors. We are literally building fire-fighting capacity into our design – there is nothing quite like this at any local institutions.
Following the 2019 Getty fire we partnered with community leaders, including the Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority and Scripps College, to facilitate access for 24-hour wild-fire cameras on our property to assist with early detection of wildfire.
Preserving the Natural Landscape
The project will preserve over 420 acres of open space in the Santa Monica Mountains, which allows for hillside preservation, restoration and protection of native habitat, public trails, and recreational opportunities. Our plan follows the natural topography of the land, thereby dramatically reducing grading and preserving the natural habitat within the open space.
We are open to working with local trail advocates and experts to explore improved or additional trail options to enhance the trail system while minimizing disturbance to the landscape as part of the environmental review process.
The Institute has pledged to preserve more than 90% of the property as protected open space and will comply with all existing open space and trail easements.
Minimizing Traffic Impact on Mountaingate
A 28-estate style home subdivision was previously approved for development on this site and can still be built today. If built, daily traffic and a substantial portion of construction traffic will be through Mountaingate Drive and Stoney Hill.
In comparison, primary access to the Scholars Campus will be on Serpentine Road, which would be improved to LA Fire Department standards and other City requirements. Using Serpentine Road would lead visitors directly from Sepulveda Blvd, keeping Institute traffic away from the residential streets of Mountaingate. Gated emergency access would continue to be provided from Stoney Hill Road.
Serpentine Road provides an additional means of fire access and egress for residents of Mountaingate. This road will be an important public safety benefit to our neighbors.
Our Community Partners
Los Angeles Conservation Corps
The LA Conservation Corps is working with the Berggruen Institute and Studio-MLA to develop a series of test planting areas on our property to research drought- and fire-resistant plant species as well as planting and irrigation techniques for brush clearance zones. Key learnings from this initiative will inform the Institute’s planting plan in fuel modification zones as well as other mountainous wildfire areas.
UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs
The Berggruen Institute is partnering with The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs to advance global understanding of what makes governments effective.
The collaboration has led to the Berggruen Governance Index, which evaluates countries based on their quality of political and administrative governance. For policymakers and policy analysts, the Index serves as a much-needed tool for grasping how governance relates to social and economic progress in various political contexts.
Frequently Asked Questions
Have you wondered about the Berggruen Institute and its proposed Scholars Campus? We’ve accumulated some of the most frequently asked questions proposed by our future neighbors and fellow Angelenos. Answers are provided in written and video formats—with some explained from the living room of our Chairman Nicolas Berggruen and others on the future site of the campus by design and environmental team member Mia Lehrer of Studio-MLA. Click here to view the complete playlist.