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Getty Center Central Garden design plans, approximately 1992-1996

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Inventory of the Getty Center Central Garden Design Plans

Historical background

The Central Garden, created by American artist Robert Irwin, lies at the heart of the Getty Center in Los Angeles, California. The 134,000-square-foot design features a natural ravine and tree-lined walkway that leads the visitor through an extraordinary experience of sights, sounds, and scents.

The walkway traverses a stream that winds through a variety of plants and gradually descends to a plaza where bougainvillea arbors provide scale and a sense of intimacy. Continuing through the plaza, the stream cascades over a stone waterfall or "chadar," into a pool with a floating maze of azaleas. Specialty gardens encircle the pool. All of the foliage and materials of the garden, including over 500 varieties of plants, have been selected to accentuate the interplay of light, color, and reflection. Robert Irwin began planning the Central Garden in 1992, as a key part of the Getty Center project. Since the Center opened in 1997, the Central Garden has evolved as its plants have grown and been trimmed. New plants are constantly being added to the palette. Irwin's statement, "Always changing, never twice the same," is carved into the plaza floor, reminding visitors of the ever-changing nature of this living work of art.

Executing Irwin's design for the Central Garden required the collaboration of a number of people, including engineers, soil scientists, plant experts, landscape architects, and Getty staff. In finalizing all aspects of the garden, Irwin worked closely with Harold M. Williams and Stephen D. Rountree of the J. Paul Getty Trust; Richard Naranjo, the Getty's manager of grounds and gardens; and Spurlock Poirier Landscape Architects.

The Central Garden is set within the larger context of the Getty Center campus. Emmet L. Wemple & Associates Landscape Architects designed the landscaping of the major hillsides of the 110-acre site while Olin Partnership, Philadelphia designed additional gardens throughout the campus.

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