In a world that seems more chaotic than ever before, we could all use some time to relax, self-reflect and heal. And what better location for pure self-discovery than among the beautiful redwoods, majestic trees that have endured countless environmental cycles during their 20-million-year existence.
1440 Multiversity—named for the number of minutes in a day—is a Bay Area retreat, tucked in the mountains between San Jose and Santa Cruz and surrounded by a forest of ancient redwood trees. The retreat was established by Scott Kriens, a former Silicon Valley executive, and his wife Joanie Kriens. It offers various workshops related to personal growth, health and wellness, professional development, and belonging and unity. It attracts faculty from diverse backgrounds, including artists, athletes, health experts and business leaders, who guide participants on journeys of self-exploration and discovery.
The Krienses created 1440 Multiversity on the abandoned campus of Bethany University in Scotts Valley, Calif. They had a vision for a “nurturing physical location where people of all walks of life could come together in community—to explore, learn, reflect, connect and reenergize.” However, they had trouble finding an architect who could create their vision within a cluster of uninspired 1950s and ’70s block buildings. Representatives from the Krienses’ general contractor, South Bay Construction, introduced the couple to an architect with whom South Bay had a long working relationship: Jerry Yates, owner of Yates Architecture. Although Yates doesn’t specialize in adaptive reuse, he understood the Krienses’ desire to transform the campus into a Zen-style retreat.
“Because of their philosophy, the Krienses wanted something that architecturally fit in with the redwoods and California,” Yates explains. “The vein of Craftsman that I like is the Greene and Greene style, which is one of the few indigenous California design styles. It was basically developed in Pasadena during the beginning of the last century. Greene and Greene took the arts and crafts movement, which started in England, and modified it with a Japanese influence. To me, that style is an amalgam of American, European and Pacific Rim architecture, and that fits with the global humanity focus of 1440 Multiversity. The Krienses liked that idea.”
Once the design style was agreed upon, the challenges began because—as Yates points out—it’s much easier to build new structures in any style you want. It’s exponentially more difficult to adapt buildings “you’re stuck with.” Thus began a transformation that was supposed to last about a year and a half and cost $30 million but lasted four years and cost $120 million.
Despite its mountain setting, 1440 Multiversity is easily accessible on the main traffic artery from Santa Cruz to Silicon Valley. Its location makes it a favorite destination for businesses looking to perform team building, as well as couples seeking to improve their relationships before exploring nearby wine country.
Although the 80-acre site was an idyllic setting for a college campus, Bethany University, which had operated there since 1950, struggled financially before folding in 2011. Yates’ team saved and remodeled seven university buildings on campus, tore down many more and built six new buildings to meet the needs of the retreat.
Some of the renovations were more straightforward than others. For example, the 15,735-square-foot main classroom building, called Outlook, maintained most of its existing classroom layouts. “We had to construct a new entry on the building because it never really had one that was decent,” Yates recalls. “In California, because we have earthquakes, when you have either a change in occupancy or do a certain amount of work on a building, you have to bring the buildings up to code for seismic, so that was something we had to complete on the retrofitted buildings.”
The campus had several typical dormitories, in which a room is shared by two to four people who access bathroom facilities down the hall. “We didn’t totally gut those buildings,” Yates recalls. “In Trillium, the largest existing residence hall at 20,520 square feet, we took the common showers out and used the extra space to make larger, upgraded suites. We modified the dorm rooms so they would have toilet and shower facilities in each one and, essentially, created a hotel room with two queen beds.”
Two smaller dorm facilities, each measuring 7,307 square feet and known as Oak and Madrone, are for guests who wouldn’t mind the college-dorm experience. Some of the rooms maintained the original dorm layout while other rooms were transformed into suites. “Those were partial guts,” Yates says. “We took the floor plans and adapted them, but those buildings were in bad shape and we had to tear the roofs off and do a lot of structural repairs.”
To ensure guests have various levels of accommodations to choose from, a new 4-story, 31,516-square-foot building was constructed. Known as Sayanta, it contains the most hotel-like suites. In addition, sleeping pods for guests who want to experience 1440 Multiversity on a budget are available under the newly constructed 23,734-square-foot Redwood building’s auditorium floor.
PHOTOS: 1440 MULTIVERSITY