SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

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Menlo Park, CA
United States
SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

This research laboratory was established by Stanford University and the Atomic Energy Commission in 1962. That same year the landscape architecture firm Royston, Hanamoto, Mayes & Beck was commissioned to design the campus. A prior master plan developed by university staff called for a monoculture of deodar cedar trees along the length of the Klystron Gallery, a narrow, two-mile-long utilitarian building housing the nation’s first particle acceleration device. Set amid groves of existing shade trees and open lawns, the gallery was to be framed by a linear path and screened by edge plantings. Through coordinated efforts with the university staff, Royston created a nuanced design that addressed functional, aesthetic, and financial concerns. Knowing the preferences of his mentor Thomas Church, who was then Stanford University’s landscape architect, Royston suggested retaining walls made of fieldstone to match those elsewhere on the university campus. To provide shade and prevent erosion, Royston planted a variety of deciduous and broadleaf evergreen trees, including pines and cedars, around the perimeter of the buildings. Dense thickets of shrubs screened parking lots and equipment shops, while groves of bluegum eucalyptus masked unsightly slopes that had been cut or filled during construction. The firm also implemented a network of meandering paths and supplemented various buildings with entrance plazas and shaded patios. The campus was enclosed with perimeter plantings to contain grazing within the surrounding agricultural landscape. For several years, the firm worked with the university to create an onsite nursery to deliver the 2,000 trees needed for the design.

Formerly known as the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, the 425-acre complex, now operated by the U.S. Department of Energy, is situated in Menlo Park, one mile west of the Stanford University campus. Klystron Gallery stretches through open rolling fields, passing beneath the elevated double-lane Junípero Serra Freeway before terminating among a cluster of campus laboratories. A quad of administrative offices and research centers was redesigned in 2018.