The Getty Center

The Getty Center (official website) is more than a museum with its beautifully designed garden, and outdoor cafe, you can spend hours just to relax, read, and enjoy a cup of coffee. A couple weeks ago, I visited The Getty Center in a beautiful Sunday. First, I have to tell you the location. It is located on a hilltop in the Santa Monica Mountains. Trams carry visitors from a street-level parking facility to the top of the hill.

From the top, you have the great views of Los Angeles downtown, the Pacific Ocean, the San Gabriel Mountains. Architect, Richard Meier, designed the building in a way that it offers framed panoramic views of the city. It is important to go there on a clear and sunny day for great views.

When you are at the top, and finally take your eyes away from the view, you will notice the great architecture. Richard Meier positioned the buildings along a natural ridge in the hilltop. Galleries, offices, and the auditorium lead out to courtyards and terraces; all offices receive natural light. Since this is a prime location on a hilltop, neighbors had quite a few requests. One of them was no building more than two stories above grade. All of the buildings extend underground and are linked with subterranean corridors for various services.

There are three major architectural materials; stone, glass, and metal. The stone is one of the most remarkable elements of the complex. According to the architectural tour guide, there was a conflict about the color of the stone. Meier, whose signature is white, preferred white color stone, but again neighbors had their own rules! They didn’t want white because of reflection. At the end everyone agreed on beige-colored, cleft-cut, textured, fossilized travertine catches the bright Southern California light.

The 16,000 tons of travertine are from Bagni di Tivoli, Italy, 15 miles east of Rome. Many of the stones revealed fossilized leaves, feathers, and branches when they were split along their natural grain. I think these fossils added another dimension of nature to the project.

Natural light is one of the Getty Centers most important architectural elements. The many exterior walls of glass allow sunshine to illuminate the interiors. A computer-assisted system of louvers and shades adjusts the light indoors. The paintings galleries on the Museums upper level are all naturally lit, with special filters to prevent damage to the artworks.

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