Retrofit Retreat

Abandoned Campus Turned into Wellness Center in Scotts Valley, California

by Andrew Toimil, chief product officer, Feeney Inc.

Located in Scotts Valley, California, on a 75-acre site nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains and surrounded by towering redwoods, 1440 Multiversity blends almost seamlessly into the natural environment.  The non-profit immersive learning center, conceived by former Silicon Valley executive Scott Kriens and his wife Joanie, exists to help people build stronger connections in the world and grow in relationship, spirit, and wellness.  The center, which gets its name from the 1,440 minutes that are in each day, offers guests the opportunity to renew and recharge while enjoying farm-to-table food and wellness classes along with specially curated personal development programs.  

         Rather than building on new land, the Kriens opted to retrofit the former Bethany University.  When they walked the abandoned campus, which had shuttered its operations and been vacant for a couple of years, they came upon an amphitheater surrounded by large redwoods and decided the spot was the ideal location in which to realize their vision.  The Kriens collaborated with architect Jerry Yates to transform Multiversity from a dream to reality.  Yates was a fan of the design style popularized by architectural firm Greene and Greene in the early 20th century and thought the refined approach would complement the inherent natural beauty of the site. 

All photos courtesy of 1440 Multiversity

         “The Greene brothers worked primarily in California and married arts-and-crafts design elements with a Japanese aesthetic,” said Yates.  “We thought it would be a nice tie-in to incorporate an architecture style that was endemic to California, and the Kriens were aligned with our recommendation.”

         To ensure a connected feel throughout the site, substantial improvements had to be made to the existing campus and surrounding area.  The natural environmental elements and native species were integral to the visitor experience, making it crucial to integrate the old-growth redwoods and streams running though the property into the overall design approach in a way that flowed effortlessly. 

         “The idea was to showcase the location’s inherent beauty and evoke a feeling of serenity and well-being,” commented Yates.  “Everything we did was focused on reinforcing the natural beauty of the site rather than infringing upon it.  The landscape was an integral element of the project.”

         In addition, the age of the campus and varying terrain required that the infrastructure be updated to support the daily use of the facilities.  The original buildings on the campus encompassed a variety of styles, which not only created design challenges but also technical challenges, as the team had to ensure that all construction met exacting code requirements.  According to Yates, “Around 2/3 of the structures had to be rebuilt.  The original buildings weren’t well-constructed and didn’t have much aesthetic appeal.  We were tasked with bringing those buildings up to a level that would complement the new architecture and create a unified look.”

         Yates and South Bay Construction, Campbell, California, transformed the campus into a wooded oasis, incorporating natural materials from local and international sources.  Redwood was utilized for a wooden pedestrian bridge, and cedar planks were used for columns and trusses.  In addition, more than 1,400 tons of stone and slate found a home on the roofs.  To bring a refined finish to the buildings along with durability, copper gutters and downspouts were installed.  The project involved a significant amount of stonework, including bollards, bridges, walls, and the exterior of the buildings.  Noted Yates, “The use of natural materials and simple forms throughout the site reinforced the sense of connection to nature.”

         When it came to railings for the project, Yates choose railing solutions from Feeney®.  The company’s DesignRail® aluminum railings with CableRail® infill had been used on the interior in one the first buildings in the project, an interior dorm, and Yates liked the streamlined appearance of the railings and how they complemented the Craftsman aesthetic.  He ultimately specified DesignRail with CableRail infill for the multiple balconies of the site’s four-story hotel-like building called Sayanta, which is named for a native tribe in Scotts Valley.  The top rails of the balconies were crafted of ipe, which harmonized with the redwoods and the site’s organic look and feel. 

         “Preserving the beautiful views on the property was a key consideration,” said Yates.  “The combination of aluminum railings with cable infill not only accentuated the architecture but also opened up the sightlines.  At the same time, it was a durable and low-maintenance solution.  The Feeney team made the entire process seamless, which we really appreciated.”  

         Truly a labor of love, the renovation, which took the better part of four years, brought new life to a once forgotten university campus, transforming it into a welcoming learning center and retreat in the heart of the redwood forest.

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