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Building the Getty
     

Building the Getty

by Richard Meier
 
One of America's most eminent architects tells us what it was like to undertake the architectural commission of the century: the building of the Getty Center in Los Angeles. Writing with wit and passion and in engrossing detail, Richard Meier takes us behind the scenes of the thirteen-year-long, one-billion-dollar project.

We follow Meier from 1957 when,

Overview

One of America's most eminent architects tells us what it was like to undertake the architectural commission of the century: the building of the Getty Center in Los Angeles. Writing with wit and passion and in engrossing detail, Richard Meier takes us behind the scenes of the thirteen-year-long, one-billion-dollar project.

We follow Meier from 1957 when, just out of Cornell, he traveled to Europe for a grand tour and to seek work with two of his architectural heroes, Le Corbusier and Alvar Aalto, and through to his early years in New York with Marcel Breuer. After Meier established his own private practice, we see him designing public housing and the private houses that expressed his distinctive modernist style of pure geometric line, of whiteness, and open spaces flooded with light. We also see him, in time, designing such important art centers as the Museum of Decorative Arts in Frankfurt, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona.

And then—in 1984—the Getty Center. Meier tells us how he was selected from more than thirty 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 was a new cultural institution, and Meier worked with the program directors to design the buildings that would serve them best. In the beginning, neither he nor the Getty had any idea of the complications in store for them. Each of the Center's six components, including the Getty Museum, had its own set of priorities. Meier faced two important contradictory challenges: the creative and thepractical. His task was to design a series of buildings that would stand as architectural masterpieces. But, at the same time, he had to deal with myriad specific demands and limitations imposed not only by his client, but also by the local homeowners, who were alarmed by the specter of a vast complex arising in their midst. As a result, the design process itself was not completed until 1991, when the drawings and large-scale model of the Center were finally unveiled to the press.

But Meier's task had scarcely begun. The sheer scale and complexity of the project, and the number of people involved in every decision, continued to mean constant revisions. As construction moved ahead, Meier lived on the site, yet commuted to his New York office to manage ongoing European projects, while in his new office in Los Angeles, the population of architects handling the Getty grew to more than a hundred. Although the Center's design had been agreed on, much negotiation lay ahead before questions of material, color, and landscaping were at last settled.

Finally, in 1996, almost half of the Center was ready to be occupied, and Meier could see that the work—carried out by the many architects, engineers, technicians, craftsmen, and builders for thirteen years—was well on its way to being completed. Meier's fascinating book, chronicling the creation of one of the cultural monuments of our time, is a unique record of the art and process of building in this century, and an important contribution to architectural history.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
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 1991—seven 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 century—Janine Liebert

Library Journal
Great buildings often have lives of their own, and it is fortunate when the architect responsible for their creation tells their story. The Getty Centerset to open this monthis a billion-dollar complex n a campus-like environment overlooking Los Angeles. Meier, Getty's prize-winning architect, tells of his struggles in creating a manageable design when faced with residents opposed to the center, the challenges posed by the seismically active area, and a surprisingly penny-pinching J. Paul Getty Trust. After a brief autobiographical sketch that includes summaries of his other major projects, including the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona, Meier launches into his creation of the Getty Center. His restrained style subtly betrays the braggadocio seemingly required of all great architects. As a document of the construction of one of the great public structures of the late 20th century, this account is indispensable. Recommended for larger architecture collections. [For an account of the contents of the museum, see John Walsh and Deborah Gribbon's The J. Paul Getty Museum and Its Collections, reviewed on p. 102.Ed.]Martin R. Kalfatovic, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, D.C.
New York Review of Books
Accurately portrays the kinds of problems that even eminent architects face as a matter of course but that in his case were magnified by the scope of the project.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375400438
Publisher:
Knopf Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/25/1997
Edition description:
1 ED
Pages:
204
Product dimensions:
8.78(w) x 8.57(h) x 0.84(d)

Meet the Author


Richard Meier has received the highest honors in architecture, including the 1997 Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects and the Pritzker Architecture Prize. His award-winning buildings include the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Canal + Television Headquarters in Paris, and the acclaimed Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona.

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