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AD Classics: Getty Center / Richard Meier & Partners, Architects LLP

  • Architects: Richard Meier & Partners, Architects LLP
  • Location: Los Angeles, California
  • Architect: Richard Meier & Partners, Architects LLP
  • References: Richard Meier & Partners Architects
  • Project Year: 1997
  • Photographs: Courtesy of richard meier & partners architects © scott frances esto, Wikimedia Commons

© Wikimedia Commons © Wikimedia Commons Courtesy of richard meier & partners architects © scott frances esto Courtesy of richard meier & partners architects © scott frances esto

From the architect. The Getty Center occupies a narrow, hilly stretch high above the San Diego Freeway in Los Angeles California. Jutting southward from the Santa Monica Mountains, the museum’s acropolis-like stature affords spectacular views over the city, the mountains and the ocean.

Courtesy of richard meier & partners architects © scott frances esto
Courtesy of richard meier & partners architects © scott frances esto

Coined, “the commission of the century”, this $1 billion arts facility began in 1984 with the mandate to advance knowledge and nurture critical seeing through the growth and presentation of its collections and by advancing the understanding and preservation of the world's artistic heritage. Today the Museum’s permanent collection contains Greek and Roman antiquities, 18th-century French furniture and European paintings, and is visited by more than 1.8 million people a year.

© Wikimedia Commons
© Wikimedia Commons

Completed in 1997, Richard Meier’s program brings the seven components of the Getty Trust into a coherent unity, while maintaining their individual identities. The layout establishes a dialogue between the angle of intersection and a number of curvilinear forms that are largely derived from the contours of the site inflected by the Freeway, the metropolitan grid and the natural topography; the overall parts relate to both the City of Los Angeles and the Santa Monica Mountains.

Axonometric, Courtesy of Richard Meier & Partners Architects
Axonometric, Courtesy of Richard Meier & Partners Architects

The Center covers almost 100,000 square feet of area, and is organized along two ridges in the topography of the 110-acre parcel.

Courtesy of richard meier & partners architects © scott frances esto
Courtesy of richard meier & partners architects © scott frances esto

The Museum acts as the centerpiece and the main entrance to the Center. Stepping off the tram that takes you from the base of the mountain and parking area to the Welcome Center and into the Museum. The entrance lobby has a sun-lit circular foyer, and provides views through the courtyard to gallery structures arrayed in a continuous sequence.

Entry Level Plan, Courtesy of Richard Meier & Partners Architects
Entry Level Plan, Courtesy of Richard Meier & Partners Architects

Throughout the Museum there is a layering in section between paintings, illuminated by skylights on the top floor and artworks which must be shielded from ultraviolet light on the lower levels.

The smaller pavilion buildings, connected by gardens, break down the scale of the museum experience allowing for pauses and encouraging interplay between the interior and exterior. 

Courtesy of richard meier & partners architects © scott frances esto
Courtesy of richard meier & partners architects © scott frances esto

Each pavilion cluster has its own atrium with an adjacent stairway and elevator linking the sculpture drawing, manuscript, and photography galleries on the first floor to the paintings and galleries above.

North Elevation, Courtesy of Richard Meier & Partners Architects
North Elevation, Courtesy of Richard Meier & Partners Architects

A 450-seat auditorium, west of the Getty Trust offices and the Art History Information Program, terminate the east elevation. The Getty Conservation Institution, The Getty Center for Education, and The Getty Grant Program take advantage of the climate through the use of loggias, pergolas and full-height glazing at the external perimeter. Along the more secluded western ridge, the Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities completes the complex.

Courtesy of richard meier & partners architects © scott frances esto
Courtesy of richard meier & partners architects © scott frances esto

The Getty Center was the first building to be LEED certified after the standard was established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in 1998. It is a reflection of Richard Meier & Partners design philosophy that innately considers sustainable elements like natural light, circulation and energy saving technologies and materials.

© Wikimedia Commons
© Wikimedia Commons

Special thanks to Richard Meier & Partners Architects and Scott Frances ESTO for the images, drawings, data and detailed description of the Getty Center.

© Wikimedia Commons
© Wikimedia Commons

This building is part of our Architecture City Guide: Los Angeles. Check all the other buildings on this guide right here.

East Elevation, Courtesy of Richard Meier & Partners Architects
East Elevation, Courtesy of Richard Meier & Partners Architects
Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address. Cite:Megan Sveiven. "AD Classics: Getty Center / Richard Meier & Partners, Architects LLP" 15 Jan 2011. ArchDaily. Accesed . <http://www.archdaily.com/103964/ad-classics-getty-center-richard-meier-partners-architects/>