April 15, 2012

Landscaping at the Getty Center

Inspired by the garden traditions of California and the ancient Mediterranean, the landscaping contributes to the Center’s striking mix of ancient and modern. Visitors to the Getty Center are surrounded by a sensual environment of recurring colors, textures, and scents. As time passes, the landscape will evolve, creating an intimate, ever-changing tableau that enhances the visitor’s experience of the Getty’s artistic and educational mission.

Entryway and Lower Tram Station
On entering the front gate, visitors may notice the groves of sycamores planted by the entryway. The trees are meant to evoke the Getty Villa in Malibu, whose Canyon Drive entryway is also lined with sycamores.

The Lower Tram Station introduces visitors to the lush plantings that await them at the top of the hill. Beyond the station, picnickers can lounge on the grass, shaded by white-flowering wisteria on a lavender-colored trellis. Purple blossoms hang from the jacaranda trees, while across the tramway, a row of crape myrtles bloom white. Through the leafy screen of a California pepper tree grove, one can see a view of the Getty Center waiting atop the hill.

From the tram, visitors can see the more than 8,500 native oak trees planted in rows on the hillside; deer, birds, and other local wildlife are visible sometimes as well. The hillside’s ground layer has been planted with poverty weed, local chaparral and shrubs, in order to prevent erosion and fire and to preserve the natural environment. More than 100 Italian stone pines are planted along Getty Center Drive. The grid pattern of the oak plantings sets the tone for the organic order of the architecture on the hilltop.

Arrival Plaza
Four tall stone pines stand at the center of the open Arrival Plaza. In years to come, these pines, which will be trimmed flat so as not to obstruct views from other points of the Center, are expected to produce a 50- to 60-foot wide canopy that will shade visitors from the Southern California sun. To the north, toward Mt. St. Mary’s College, Aleppo pines appear just beyond the travertine wall; they are expected to reach 60 to 70 feet in height.

Along the left side of the Museum steps, water cascades down into a fountain. A bed of blue-flowering ceanthos and rosemary follows the water’s path, tumbling down to and over the lower wall. Visitors ascending the stairs to the Museum catch glimpses of the foliage through portals in the travertine wall.

The cooler temperature of the campus’ north side is reflected in the cooler colors of the plantings--pale greens, blues, purples and grays being the dominant hues. On the north side, in between the grass-covered helipad and the Auditorium, a series of terraces serve as shaded, outdoor "rooms"--separated by trimmed hedges and Italian stone pines--from which to observe the hillside and the southern face of the Getty Center.

At the Auditorium Plaza, a stand of purple- and white-flowering jacarandas echoes the colors of the Lower Tram Station. In the cool, shady "canyon" between the North and East Buildings, tree ferns, tall kentia palms, and Asian jasmine groundcover create a lush palm court. The East Building features its own outdoor courtyard--an open lawn shaded with flowering trees--where staff can lunch and gather. The walkway between the North and East Buildings to the Museum is connected by an "aerial" hedge of white crape myrtle, Spanish lavender and star jasmine, all of which accent the colors and scents of the campus.

The star jasmine that borders the North Building walkway ends, at the Museum’s entrance, with a grove of California sycamores. Inside the Museum courtyard, graceful Mexican cypress trees hang over the 120-foot linear fountain. A small grove of camphor trees rises from the dark green phittosporum groundcover; come spring, hundreds of yellow daffodils will bloom here. Boston ivy climbs up one of the pavilion’s travertine walls from a bed of fragrant jewel mint.

On the Museum’s South Terrace, near a trellis covered with classic California red bougainvillea and hundreds of birds of paradise (Los Angeles’ official flower), visitors can take in views of the city--a cactus garden is located at the southern end of the courtyard, the hottest and driest point on the Getty Center campus. Here, the warm yellow-orange of the agave and fresh green of the cacti call to mind the desert environment from which Los Angeles has grown.

Restaurant/Café and Upper Central Garden
Located to the west of the Museum entrance, the Restaurant and Cafe building is set apart by a distinctive, lavender-colored trellis covered by white-blooming wisteria. Beside the trellis, at the Restaurant Terrace, diners can enjoy the summer shade of leafy London plane trees; in winter, these deciduous trees let in warm sunlight. They were chosen for this setting, in part, because they are close relatives of the sycamores planted at the Getty Center entryway and the Museum entrance, and thus evoke a sense of continuity throughout the campus. This landscaping theme continues in a line of sycamores that extends from the Restaurant Building to Robert Irwin’s Central Garden.

Research Institute
Located at the Southwest edge of the campus, the landscaping that surrounds the Research Institute draws its inspiration from the agrarian history of California and the ancient Mediterranean. A row of California pepper trees connects the building with the Museum entrance to its west. Visitors to the Research Institute are greeted by birds of paradise. The Getty Scholars’ offices, bordering a green lawn on the building’s south side, are flanked by olive trees underplanted with lavender and grapevines climbing an arbor. One level down, on the west side of the building, a grove of orange and lemon trees adjoins an outdoor lounge. Here, staff and guests can sit beneath the shade of a fig tree with wild-strawberry groundcover. At the Institute’s lowest level, on the east side, fragrant eucalyptus trees rise up toward the light along a textured travertine wall, creating a tranquil, secluded garden.

Landscaping the Getty Center has been a collaborative effort involving a number of distinguished landscape architects, consultants and craftspeople through the years. Emmet Wemple, landscape architect for the Getty Villa in Malibu, began the project and conceived preliminary designs. Richard Meier conceived the master plan, which called for developing 19 of 24 acres as landscape or gardens. Dennis Hickok of Richard Meier & Partners served as liaison and for design and development of the works for the architects and landscape architects. Laurie Olin and the Olin Partnership, Philadelphia, PA, joined the team in 1992, and have remained through the project’s completion. Fong and Associates of Orange County and Raymond Hansen assisted in plant selection, procurement, and administration. Daniel Urban Kiley consulted on the project beginning in 1990. The landscaping would not have been possible without the work of numerous other consultants, contractors and craftspeople who helped create this impressive environment.

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About the Getty:

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

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