Getty Museum
issue : 102003

A space that houses the arts has a special duty; to enhance one’s visual experience and aid in the engagement of visitors to the arts. In Los Angeles, there is a museum that borderlines between being a delicate accommodation and being pieces of art itself (or at least tries to be). You most likely have seen, while stuck in daily traffic, the monumental Getty Museum (that was founded by an oil tycoon, J. Paul Getty in 1953, Malibu) hovering over the 405 FWY. It almost resembles Parthenon of Athens in its massive presence over the city which can be seen from miles away. After $1 Billion of spending spree by Richard Meier and the Getty Trust, the new location in Santa Monica Mountains opened in 1997 which was the result of over a decade of design and construction.

With its unique location and transportation to the summit (free tram ride that climbs the hillside), the museum 'complex' consists of several buildings that form galleries, gardens, voids, and many open spaces in between. Upon arrival to the top of the mountain, those seemingly dwarfing stone buildings seem to be lot smaller and to human scale, perhaps because they actually sit quite far apart from each other. Also, you realize this is Meier-land with overwhelming amount of white, lavender grid surfaces. There is sense of mixed feelings of (in)-coherence however; each building has its own distinctive design, and only the colors and materials (mostly travertine from Carreras, Italy of course) are common. Confusion of public spaces increases as one wonders in-between surprisingly jagged and orthogonally protruded buildings. In the midst of confusion, there are a couple of wonderful open spaces that seem much more successful, such as a courtyard that consists of water and stones without any windows and the large belly of a space below the contemporary art gallery with a spectacular view of Santa Monica and the main garden below.

The central garden, designed by Robert Irwin, introduces a nice contrasting effect, both in color and texture, in the midst of white Meierism; a continuous labyrinth-like pathway defined by rusticated metal retaining walls ends well below the grade level, where view of the city is unfortunately unattainable. This garden is about walking, not about destination or activities along the way. At mid-level, there are breathtaking, organic metal canopy-like structures (reminiscent of organic quality of Park Guell, Barcelona) which hold vines of flowers and provide shades below where visitors can sit and rest.

One is certain that the Getty Museum is a place of a billion dollar (limited views regrettably) view of the city that provides great cultural experiences... it's not about the art inside, but the buildings and surrounding spaces themselves are at the center stage here.

:: REF ::
Detail Photos
The Getty
Reed College Photo Collections (tons of them)
Photo.Net (more photos)
Architecture in Detail Series
Building the Getty
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*free admission and tours with $5 parking, open daily at 10am and close various hours (check with museum hours)