Contemporary Architecture

Richard Meier – Getty Art Centre


  • Born on October 12, 1934 in Newark, New Jersey
  • 1957 – completed B.Arch at Cornell University in Ithaca
  • 1984 – awarded the Pritzker Prize
  • 1989 – awarded a royal gold medal by the Royal   Institute of    British Architects


  • Main figure in the “New York Five”
  • Main concepts: Light, Color and Place.
  • Main focus – placeness: “What is it that makes a space a place.”
  • Plain geometry, layered definition of spaces and effects of light and shade.
  • Forms interlaced in landscape.
  • Usually designs white Neo-Corbusian forms with enameled panels and glass

About the building:

  • Exploited the two naturally occurring ridges by overlaying two grids along these axes.
  • Along one axis : galleries
  • Along the other axis : administrative buildings.
  • The primary grid structure is a 30-inch square; most wall and floor elements are 30-inch squares or some derivative thereof.
  • Six buildings on 124 acres (50 hectares) :
    • Getty Conservation Institute
    • Getty Education Institute for the Arts
    • Getty Grant Program
    • Getty Information Institute
    • J. Paul Getty Trust, the Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities
    • J. Paul Getty Museum
  • It is architecture for the 21st century as imagined in the early 20th century.
  • There are no diversionary pediments and keystones, only suave geometries and rigorous details.
  • Richard Meier, designed the building in a way that it offers framed panoramic views of the city.
  • “the most complex task imaginable,“ in it was Mr. Meier’s goal to design six separate buildings, each with its individual purpose and architectural identity, and yet to produce “a feeling of intimacy and coherence” among them.
  • The museum has a seven-story deep underground parking garage with over 1,200 parking spaces.
  • Automated driverless three –car tram.
  • The 134,000-square-foot Central Garden at the Getty Center is the work of artist Robert Irwin.
  • Throughout the campus, numerous fountains provide white noise as a background
  • Five pavilions around a garden courtyard, interconnected by walkways, some open air.
  • Frank Lloyd Wright is one of the gods from whom Meier claims stylistic influence, and the basic form of this building — a five- story cylinder whose salient interior feature is a broad ramp that follows the building’s curve as it descends — suggests Wright’s Guggenheim Museum with the sides straightened and one large slice of the layer cake removed.


Three major architectural materials:

  • Stone – beige-colored, cleft-cut, textured, fossilized travertine catches the bright Southern California light
  • Glass
  • Concrete and steel with either travertine or aluminium cladding.

Abstract collages of interlocking white-metal-clad boxes and curved white-metal-clad walls, with nothing but dark punched windows and steel stair rails for exterior ornament.


  • Galleries, offices, and the auditorium lead out to courtyards and terraces; all offices receive natural light.
  • First floor galleries house light-sensitive art, such as illuminated manuscripts, furniture or photography.
  • Computer-controlled skylights on the second floor.
  • The second floors are connected by a series of glass enclosed bridges and open terraces.
  • Most Sophisticated Computerized Lighting System Ever Installed In An Art Gallery.
  • Photo sensors located throughout the galleries:  measure and monitor incoming light on upper level of the museum.
  • 22 skylit galleries showcasing the museum’s priceless painting collections.
  • To counteract the damaging effects of direct sunlight, an elaborate configuration of shades and louvers were installed throughout the museum’s galleries and common areas to direct and control the stream of incoming light.


  • Getty Center portrays three key points that characterize good architecture: interaction, consistency and unity
  • The structure is clear and decipherable, it is complex in plan and overly rich in texture. The play of volumes and proportions, manifested in the cascade of terraces and balconies, flow of ramps, galleries, arcades and staircases, weave the interplay of nature and architecture.

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