Meier: The Getty Center

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What is it: The Getty Center, Los Angeles, California, by Richard Meier. Gardens by Robert Irwin.

Why its awesome: A combined experience of architecture, landscape architecture and art make a trip to the Getty unforgettable. A tram ride to the top of the hills overlooking Los Angeles deposits you into a sprawling complex of ‘Meier White’ and Italian travertine clad galleries. Situated between the various public and administrative buildings sit courtyards and plazas that invite visitors to sit, linger and enjoy a snack in the comfortable California weather while they take in the surrounding views. The complex is surrounded by hills and overlooks the city of Los Angeles and the ocean beyond.

While the buildings by Meier occupy the crest of the ridge, the gardens by Irwin meander along a natural ravine between the main building clusters and end in a spectacular circular culmination of water, vegetation and footpaths. The heavily shaded footpath leads from the top of the hill, crisscrossing the ravine’s stream until arriving at an open plaza where the water tumbles down a stone waterfall into a pool filled with an azalea¬†labyrinth. Above the garden path sits an expanse of green lawn where visitors can sit and relax and perched above the lawn is a terrace for dining and people watching.

The art inside the Getty center is top notch, and a wide variety of programs exist for the general public to indulge in: demonstrations, family events, concerts, and courses.

While the buildings are predictably “Richard Meier”, the combination of built forms, open space and landscape make this an excellent example of public space. Come see the buildings, the gardens and spend some time observing how people interact with design. While I would like to see Meier branch out from his usual aesthetics, the center really works well – the most important goal of architecture.

On my first visit to the Getty, I paid more attention to the architecture and landscape design than the art itself. This was due in part to the lecture Robert Irwin gave on the garden design while in Marfa, Texas. But perhaps I forgot about the art because the Getty Center was truly enchanting.

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