Friday, November 27, 2009

Robert Irwin Design: Getty Center Central Garden

Artist Robert Irwin designed the Getty Center Central Garden in Los Angeles. 

The Azalea Maze is a focal point, while curving swathes of corten steel function as the garden's contoured retaining walls. Seated on a bench nestled in a secluded niche, I could appreciate the rusty patina of the metal, a sharp contrast to the sensory delights of flowers and foliage.

Prominent fossilized remains are a tactile quality of The Getty Center's Roman classic travertine, which covers a staggering 1.2 million square feet of walls and pavement.
Staggered levels of terraced planting create an amphitheater-like setting in the pool area.
Unusual plant combinations reflect Irwin's statement:
"...the garden is like a painting, not so much concerned with species and origin as with color, texture and conditioned relations."

The garden layout echoes a natural ravine in the existing topography.
Photos © Alice Joyce
Zigzag walkways traverse the hillside's gentle descent. Reaching the plaza, water cascades over the stone wall, directing one's focus down toward the Central Garden's reflecting pool.
"Listen to the changing sound of the stream... boulders have been create a sound sculpture."

View to the Pacific Ocean, overlooking the Central Garden.

Barbara Hepworth sculpture below:

It's easy to spend a good part of a day at The Gettytaking in the exhibitions and outdoor sculpture gardens, enjoying a meal al fresco,  not to mention, adding your own opinion to the ongoing dialogue about Robert Irwin's Central Garden.


  1. Wow..I am in love with the Azalea Maze...Fantastic! Beautiful work as always...fabulous post with lots to truly enjoy!Th releif sculpture was beautiful too!

  2. Love those bougainvillea stands, nice to get the colour (and the thorns) up. They are so sculptural!

  3. The sculptural aspects of this garden are just astounding -- and I mean sculptural in the botanical element, too. Those cactus together with the promontory, wow. I'll try to subscribe to Irwin's philosophy: "...the garden is like a painting, not so much concerned with species and origin as with color, texture and conditioned relations."

  4. What a great place. Thanks for taking me along. I love your first and fifth photos ... and all the water shots. What fun you have! Carol

  5. Wow! The azalea maze is a-mazing! I also like the pool area.

  6. Beautiful scenes, but that cacti landscape is the most brilliant one!

  7. I like how they used the barrel cacti as a sort of pointilism. And those bougainvillea trees- amazing! Very inspiring!

  8. What a great post. I just love that Azalea maze.

    RO :o)

  9. Looks like fun! I have yet to visit the Getty (and the Santa Ana Botanical Gardens). One day I'll take that trip South...

  10. Hi Grace, wow - where do I start? This post is really REALLY exciting and interesting. i agree with irwin - see garden making like painting, concerned with colour and shape and how they work together more than particular species. I am going to divide my society garlic to get a massed planting too. Another mind blowing thing is the metal constructions festooned by bougainvillea - looking perfect of course in its given context. I also found the arches over the path scene original and wonderful, kind of whimsical. thank you so much for this post, cheers, catmint

  11. Thanks all... for coming along on this visit to the Getty Center.

    Water features always pull me into their sphere. Glad you enjoyed the promontory shot!

    An artist's eye may well be a fresh approach to looking at our gardens.
    Shake up the perspective and see what happens.
    I adore the sculptural aspect of the promontory, too. A dramatic, aesthetic statement.

    Hadn't thought about getting the thorns out of the way!

    Kiki, Fida, Deborah E, Christine,
    The azalea maze still garners much attention, even as the plants were often looked upon as inappropriate for the region when The Getty first opened.

    I like the notion of seeing the cacti as pointilism... very cool!

    RO, TM, Catmint,
    Glad you enjoyed The Getty. It's good to read your comments :~]


  12. The last time I went to the Getty I kicked myself for not revisiting the cactus garden, thanks for filling that in photographically. I think one of the successes of that garden is that there's always more to see. I notice some seasonal changes, too, comparing your views to mine. And I'd never known about the fossils in the travertine! I'll look for them another time.

  13. That was just visually stunning! Such incredible shape and design. I truly admire how such a grand vision can be imagined and then executed. This place is an incredible work of art.