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American Society of Landscape Architects


May 2006 Issue

Anything but Zen
A honeycomb of gardens and courtyards defines Toyota Motor Sales’s West Coast headquarters.

By Morris Newman

Anything but  Zen Cris Costea

“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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