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Publications about the
Architecture of the Getty Center


Over the fourteen years of its conception, design and construction, the progress of the Getty Center has been closely followed and widely publicized. Until recently, of course, illustrations have consisted largely of drawings and models, with some excavation and early construction pdocuments.ompleted buildings and the landscaped site have begun to appear. Most notable both for illustrations and text are three excellent 1997 books: two the official accounts published by the Getty Trust and Museum, the other a chronological account of the design process by Richard Meier, which will surely be required reading for architectural students for years to come.

Understandably, the numerous magazine articles are highly repetitive, but there are three brief but informative articles on specialized aspects of the architecture: the tram, travertine, and plantings, the first two available on the World Wide Web.

The most useful publications are listed below, annotated with special attention to the illustrations. Other more scholarly studies will undoubtedly follow.

Doehne, Eric. "Travertine Stone at the Getty Center," in Conservation, the GIC Newsletter, Vol.XI, No.2 (Summer 1996). Also available on the www, with the illustrations in color, at the Getty Conservation Institute site: <>.

Authoritative description of the geological nature of the travertine and its uses at the Getty Center.

Meier, Richard. Building for Art/Bauen für die Kunst. Ed. Werner Blaser. Basel: Birkhaüser Verlag, 1990. Hardback.

A large format book. For the Getty Center there are twenty-three pages of often large illustrations, brief text, and a few helpful captions.

Meier, Richard. Building the Getty. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997. Hb US$35.

With the exception of six illustrations of models, the photographs were all taken by the Meier himself. It is perhaps unique that a major architect has not only written a first-hand account of his most important commission but has also published a personal photographic record of the process. The illustrations are all black-white but include 13 double-page spreads and the best published views of the site before and during the extensive grading. The photographs are well reproduced but not fully served by this medium format volume. They deserve large format publication and exhibition as photographs.

Meier, Richard. Richard Meier. Ed. and photographed by Yukio Futagawa. GA Documenta Extra No.08. Tokyo: A.D.A. Edita, 1997. Paperback.

Thirteen recent photographs of the architecture including three double-page spreads in color, about sixteen pages of diagrams and models. The first publication to include plans of the Center in its final form. Meier is interviewed by Yoshio Futagawa, providing about three pages of useful text about the Getty Center.

Meier, Richard. Richard Meier: The Getty Center. Ed. Toshio Nakamura. A+U (Architecture and Urbanism) special issue (Nov. 1992). Paperback.

Many of the usual plans, elevations, perspective and axonometric views are here reproduced more clearly as double page spreads. Previously unpublished material includes several photographs of the site before and in early stages of construction, and a number of Meier's early diagrams and sketches.

The text consists of an essay by Kurt W. Foster, "A Citadel for Los Angeles and an Alhambra for the Arts," essay by Henri E. Giriani, "Richard Meier's Getty Center," and an informative six page interview of Meier, presumably by the editor. Also included is a description, with figures, of the physical features of the site and buildings, building program chronology 1983-1991, and lists of persons and companies involved.

Simon, Richard. "The Art of Getting to the Getty will have Visitors Floating on Air," Los Angeles Times (11 Aug. 1995), p.B-2. Available for a fee at the Los Angeles Times Archives site: <>.

Excellent, detailed description of the innovative Getty tram.

Smaus, Robert. "A Gardener's Getty," Los Angeles Times (14 Dec. 1997), p.K-1. Available for a fee at the Los Angeles Times Archives site: <>.

Identifies many of the plants and trees, their appropriate locations and participation in the overall design.

Walsh, John and Deborah Gribbon. The J. Paul Getty Museum and Its Collections: A Museum for the New Century. Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997. Hb US$65, Pb US$40.

This volume provides a comprehensive review of the history of the J. Paul Museum, its buildings and collections. Only a portion is devoted to the architecture of the new Museum. The nineteen illustrations of the new Museum and Getty Center constitute the only representative group of images of the Museum to date, most notably including twelve high quality photographs of the galleries, interior passages and exterior museum terraces. For the exterior, there are two double page spreads, one unfortunately fuzzy, and the most informative aerial view of the building complex.

Regarding text, Chapter VI provides the clearest brief description of the overall design process for the Center and the authoritative account of the concept and design process for the Museum and the character and layout of its galleries and pavilions.

Weber, Jonathan. "Center Pushes High-Tech Envelope," Los Angeles Times (8 Dec. 1997), p.A-1. Available for a fee at the Los Angeles Times Archives site: <>.

Informative description of various high tech features, including the tram, center-wide computer network, skylight louver and climate control systems for the galleries, and Art Access computer system in the Museum.

Williams, Harold M., Bill Lacy, Stephen D. Roundtree, and Richard Meier. The Getty Center Design Process. Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Trust, 1991.

This is the most comprehensive publication of early diagrams, plans, elevations, perspective and axonometric drawings, and of the models to date. Other previously unpublished material includes nine aerial photos of the site before and during early stages of construction and two panoramic photographs.

The text consists of an introduction by Harold Williams, brief accounts of "The Architect Selection and Design Advisory Committees" by Bill Lacy, and of "The Architectural Program" by Stephen Rountree, followed by a five page account of "The Design Process" by Richard Meier, a superb exposition of the his design philosophy in response to the Getty Center site and program. "Excerpts from the Architectural Program" and lists of program and projects staffs and consultants are given at the back.

Williams, Harold M., Ada Louise Huxtable, Stephen D. Roundtree, and Richard Meier. Making Architecture: The Getty Center. Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Trust, 1997. Pb US$50.

This official publication contains by far the most informative body of illustrations of the Center in its nearly completed form. The photographs themselves are of exceptional professional quality, finely reproduced. There are fifty-nine color illustrations of the Center in its present form, no fewer than six of which are glorious two-page panoramas (plus a not so good three page color fold-out taken during construction). In addition, there are many black-white construction photos, large and small, and four series of aerial photos taken from four different angles over a period of year. The perfect cleanliness of most of the color photographs and their absolute orderliness, though in keeping with the design aesthetic, may appear a bit unreal to some viewers.

Of special importance, this is the only book to date providing groundplans of the site and individual buildings in their final form.

The text consists of an essay, "The Clash of Symbols" by Ada Louise Huxtable; report on the design and construction process, "A Concert of Wills," by Stephen D. Rountree; and "A Vision of Permanence," by Richard Meier. This last is the most useful, very brief, first-read for anyone beginning to explore the rationale, design process and solutions for this masterful design.