Renowned Landscape Architectural and Urban Design Firm Studio-MLA Joins the Design and Environmental Team for the Berggruen Institute New Scholars Campus

Berggruen Institute will preserve open space, expand and improve public trails, improve fire safety, develop access to natural areas, and integrate native plant material into a climate-appropriate and resilient landscape design for its 450-acre site in the Santa Monica Mountains

Rachel S. Bauch

LOS ANGELES, CA – Nicolas Berggruen, Chairman and Founder of the Berggruen Institute, today announced that the acclaimed Los Angeles-based landscape urbanist Mia Lehrer and her design firm Studio-MLA will join the design and environmental team for the Institute’s Scholars’ Campus to be built on a 450-acre hilltop site in the Santa Monica Mountains.

The Institute’s plan for the project already calls for the vast majority of the site to be preserved in perpetuity as dedicated open space, with buildings sensitively sited and thoughtfully integrated into the landscape. Studio-MLA will celebrate the importance of the Southern California landscape while underscoring the project’s commitment to enhancing fire resistance and improving public access to its network of trails.

“Honoring and respecting the land is what has always driven the design process,” said Nicolas Berggruen. “We chose this site because of its uniquely urban and biodiverse landscape. We have an opportunity as a city and as a region to do something wonderful with this land while thinking more deeply about our human relationship with nature, individually and collectively.”

The design team includes internationally renowned firm Herzog & de Meuron and the Los Angeles office of Gensler as Executive Architect. Mia Lehrer and Studio-MLA have joined the team as a design partner to create a robust landscape plan that integrates an ecological framework to protect and preserve the open space while improving deeper connections with the land and the neighboring natural areas. The project aims to be a model of a resilient environment that celebrates natural systems for future generations.

Nicolas Berggruen said, “Mia’s deep knowledge of the Southern California environment and her ability to translate those qualities of place to the community through design will help us create something extraordinary for Los Angeles. Together, we will help to preserve and protect hundreds of acres of open space while providing increased access to nature for all.”

Mia Lehrer and her team are known for such high-profile projects as the Nature Gardens of the Natural History Museum in Exposition Park; the Annenberg Community Beach House; the Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan; the landscape restoration of the John Anson Ford Theatres; the Silver Lake Reservoir Path and Meadow; the landscape design for the Los Angeles Union Station Master Plan; Ishihara Park in Santa Monica; Tree People Center for Community Forestry in Coldwater Canyon Park, Vista Hermosa Natural Park; and the forthcoming First and Broadway Park.

As a member of the design and environmental team for the Berggruen Institute, Mia and her team will work to advance the project’s goals of integrating climate-appropriate plant material and enriching biodiversity within the existing landscape surroundings to encourage habitat, and create gardens and public spaces that improve and expand hiking trails to enhance public access for the entire community.

Mia Lehrer said, “It is an honor to be working with the Berggruen Institute on a project that embraces the landscape of the Santa Monica Mountains. I am deeply impressed by the vision of the Institute and the design team, which accords so well with the mission of Studio-MLA in designing and advocating for landscapes that inspire human connection, cultural expression, and reverence for nature. At a time when our social order and environmental systems are stressed, we need places that nurture important dialogue to deliver strategies and solutions for a resilient future.”

composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.