Anything but Zen
A honeycomb of gardens and courtyards defines Toyota Motor Sales’s West Coast headquarters.
By Morris Newman
“No Zen gardens” was one of the few stylistic pointers that officials
of Toyota Motor Sales gave to the design team in 2001, when the
automaker hired lpa Inc. to design the 40-acre expansion of its
North American headquarters in suburban Los Angeles. No matter.
The Irvine, California-based firm had a plum assignment: The Japanese
carmaker had asked LPA for a campus that would set landscape in
the foreground and buildings in the background.
Happily, LPA was designing both the five-story office buildings and the landscape, allowing
Richard Bienvenu, asla, and the landscape team at LPA seamless access to the building architects. As a result, the designers have threaded a
sequence of open green spaces through a set of U- and L-shaped buildings
specially shaped to accommodate the landscape scheme. Episodes of planting and
fresh air alternate with architecture in a regular rhythm, like the alternating
squares on a checkerboard. Landscape, no longer window dressing, is an integral
part of the daily routine of Toyota’s national sales staff.
The new campus—an expansion of Toyota’s existing 135-acre campus in Hawthorne, California—is an emblem of Toyota’s newly adopted Global
Earth Charter, committing the corporation to sustainable building practices.
Toyota apparently took the charter seriously. The LPA-designed building complex received a gold-level
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, and is the largest private building
project yet to win that credential for sustainable construction.
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