One of several celebratory publications marking the opening, on December 16th, of the Getty Center in Los Angeles, "Building the Getty" is Richard Meier's fascinating memoir of the 13-year, $1 billion project. Meier tells us how he was selected from more than 30 architects, after a lengthy and involved series of interviews, to design the cultural campus on the spectacular 110-acre site overlooking the Santa Monica Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.
The Getty Center is a multiuse complex housing the museum, institutes, and a grant program. Meier's task was to design a series of buildings that would stand as architectural masterpieces while preserving the strong identity of the various institutes. Despite Meier's commission for the Getty job, it soon became clear that the Getty directors and the trustees were determined to keep a tight hold on the design process. As a result of the Getty Trust's detailed technical specifications and cultural objectives, Meier continually tested and redefined the design, finalizing it only in 1991seven years after his commission.
In "Building the Getty," Meier recounts in engrossing detail how the 13-year design and building process involved constant revisions due to the demands, and specific needs imposed by the center's trustees as well as the many architects, engineers, technicians, craftsmen, and builders involved. The book illuminates the kinds of problems even the most eminent architects face, which in the case of the Getty Center was magnified by the large size and complex scope of the project. The resulting eye-opening story of thismasterpiece is a unique tribute to both the monumental architectural undertaking and the art and process of building in this centuryJanine Liebert