‘Homeless Billionaire’ Berggruen Plans Second L.A. Home for His Cultural Think Tank

The public policy and cultural forum funded by billionaire collector Nicolas Berggruen is opening a second location near downtown L.A.

Berggruen Institute chairman Nicolas Berggruen. Photo by Jason Carter Rinaldi/Getty Images for Berggruen Institute.

The Berggruen Institute announced plans to expand to a second Los Angeles location in MacArthur Park, purchasing a 1924 Spanish revival building near downtown and tapping the Madrid-based architecture firm SelgasCano to lead the renovation.

The public policy think tank—which is funded by the German-American mega-collector Nicolas Berggruen—advocates public policy reform by encouraging dialogue between “philosophers, religious thinkers, and public intellectuals” as well as “artists, writers, architects, scientists, historians, poets, psychologists, musicians, the military, and public officials,” according to its website.

The new building—described by Berggruen as “sort of a romantic building”—will house office space, an area for public programs, exhibition galleries, and residences for visiting artists and scholars. It could take up to two years to complete, according to the Los Angeles Times, which first reported the news.

Berggruen is also currently building a Herzong & de Meuron-designed campus in the Santa Monica mountains for the think tank, but the billionaire wants his second site to be closer to the people. “What we are building in the mountains is a fairly quiet place,” he told the LAT. “We wanted another location that will be better for public engagement.”

The institute’s second location is part of a recent proliferation of cultural institutions, non-profits, and galleries that are settling in and around downtown Los Angeles. “I felt that if we’re going to be on the Westside, we should really make a commitment to another part of Los Angeles. And my feeling, strongly, was that we should be east-facing, near downtown,” he explained.

In a political environment where the bond between culture and public policy is at risk of dissolving completely, the institute says it aims to examine the influence of globalization and creativity on science, art, and everyday life.

The self-styled, globe-trotting 55-year-old art collector is colloquially known as the “homeless billionaire,” because he does not own a home and exclusively inhabits luxury hotels.

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