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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Get to Know Us

Nicolas Berggruen and the Berggruen Institute leadership team discuss the thematic work and mission of the Berggruen Institute.

The Institute recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary. Click here for an interactive timeline, 10-year report, and a list of books supported by the Berggruen Institute.

Nicolas Berggruen explains the research we do and the reflective, scholarly atmosphere we are creating.

Landscape and Design

Nicolas Berggruen expresses his respect for the Santa Monica mountains and his intention to enhance and celebrate the land.

Nicolas Berggruen shares the design plan for the campus and how it is intended to contribute to the positive development of the neighborhood.

Nicolas Berggruen discusses access plans for the Scholars’ Campus.

The City’s EIR will include a thorough traffic analysis. It’s worth noting that the project will include improving the existing Serpentine Road to Fire Department standards and other City requirements. Using Serpentine Road would lead visitors directly from Sepulveda Blvd., keeping traffic away from the residential streets in 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 safety benefit to our neighbors.

Berggruen Institute Scholars’ Campus design and environmental team member Mia Lehrer describes her restoration plans for the landscape and emphasizes her alignment with the Institutes mission to celebrate the land.

Landscape architect and Berggruen Institute Scholars’ Campus design and environmental team member Mia Lehrer explains why the project is a rare opportunity to protect, preserve, and restore the mountain. Lehrer wants to celebrate the human connection to the land and says, “this is the objective of the Institute.”

Mia Lehrer shares her excitement to be part of the Berggruen Institute Scholars’ Campus project and sees it as a potential model for innovation in urban ecology.

The proposed main Institute building is a one-story rectangular-shaped structure raised on columns above a central courtyard. The building’s ceiling height is 20 feet and the overall roofline is 45 feet above the courtyard.


The L.A. Municipal Code measures building heights from the highest point of the roof to the lowest point of elevation of the grade. The Institute building is positioned on a deeply sloping terrain, which means the technical measurements are far greater than the actual appearance of the building from the courtyard or as perceived by neighboring residences.


For example, the main building’s roofline will measure 63 feet under the municipal code’s definition – although it will actually appear far shorter – approximately 45-feet relative to the elevation of the courtyard.


Our Scholars’ Campus will serve as the headquarters for the Berggruen Institute’s research activities and a gathering space for intellectual exchange, academic symposia, workshops, and small lectures. The quiet nature of Mountaingate supports the contemplative mission of the campus.


Our primary focus is on scholarship, not events. As reflected in our architectural plans: the Institute’s main auditorium will have seating for only 250 people. In comparison, Skirball Cultural Center has seating for 1,000 guests.


Our current programming assumes 3 to 4 large events per year with more than 250 guests, with no event exceeding 400 people. As a part of the environmental study conducted for the City of Los Angeles, we will examine traffic patterns and parking for these events and provide any required mitigations which could include the potential for off-site parking and shuttle services.

Nicolas Berggruen talks about the type of activities that will take place at the Scholars’ Campus, the atmosphere we seek to maintain, and the level of philosophical and academic thinking that the Campus is designed to support.

There will be no third-party private events—this will not be a wedding venue, for example.

Outdoor amplification will only be used during special events in the interior courtyard and outdoor terraces. The level of sound and frequency of use will be studied during the environmental review process. If the environmental study identifies any significant noise impacts, then the Berggruen Institute will work closely with the City and the community to incorporate all feasible mitigation measures.

Fire & Safety

The Institute is committed to creating a tremendous safety program, and that commitment extends through the construction phase. There will be a highly detailed construction management program established as part of the EIR process which will include solutions for traffic and parking for the workers. It should also be noted that the City does not allow hauling during peak traffic periods and with our adjacency to the freeway, haul trucks will only be on

Sepulveda for a short drive.

Nicolas Berggruen describes his plans to maintain and improve security for the neighborhood.

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 experts that helped design the fire-resistant attributes of the Getty Center. Contributing to this effort is the former Los Angeles Fire Chief William Bamattre, who is extremely well-respected due to his 30 years of experience in fire service and keen understanding of the unique fire safety needs of Mountain Gate, Mandeville and other hillside communities.


The team is tasked with delivering a plan that goes far beyond compliance with L.A. County fire codes to, in fact, serve as a regional model of fire protection and prevention strategies.


The plan will incorporate lessons learned from recent fires, like the 2019 Getty fire, whose blazes damaged our land and forced many of our neighbors to evacuate their homes. Following the fire, we began work with community leaders, including the MRCA and Scripps, to facilitate access for 24-hour wild-fire cameras on our property to assist with early detection of wildfire.  This partnership continues along with continued efforts to work with public safety partners to improve fire safety access in the Santa Monica Mountains.


Our fire safety plan, and related impacts of our proposed project, will be fully evaluated and disclosed in the forthcoming Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) as part of the public review process.

Nicolas Berggruen responds to questions about potential helicopter activity.

There is no helipad proposed for the project. We are aware that it may be something the Fire Department requests for their exclusive use to respond to emergencies, and we are willing to engage in discussions with the Department. However, if the Fire Department requests that an emergency helipad is included in the plan, it could not be used by the Institute or anyone associated with the Institute for non-emergency transportation.

The proposed project has no buildings located on the Mission Canyon landfill. This landfill has been closed since 1982 and significant development—including the Mountaingate community—has been developed around it.  The closure has been performed consistent with the Site Closure and Maintenance Report, which was approved by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board.

It’s important to note that this is a research institute that is intended to provide a quiet setting for academic discourse.  This is not an event center, “mini Davos,” or otherwise a place where dignitaries are expected to visit with any frequency.

That said, security is incredibly important to the Institute as well as for our neighbors. We will be studying appropriate security measures as part of the environmental review process. This is also an area where we hope and expect to work with our neighbors to develop a plan for security protocols that ensure safety for all.

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.

RAVE (IRCAM 2021) https://github.com/acids-ircam/RAVE