The Built Environment
The internal dialog that occupies my mind is about art in the environment, both native and man made. I find art in the organic and geometric shapes and sizes and color and texture that form the environment.
I’m fortunate to live on the Big Island of Hawaii where I can pursue rejuvenation and inspiration above and below the ocean, on mountain trails and volcanic deserts or gentle paths that wander dense and tropical forests. As beautiful as rural Hawaii is with palm trees casting swaying shadows on white sands an urban environment has the advantage of monuments, museums, sculpture, art and architecture that showcase the imagination and creativity of man. A good example is the Getty Center in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles, situated on 110 acres that straddle two hilltop ridges in the Santa Monica Mountains with views of Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean. The Center incorporates the natural environment, sculpture, art and photography in a showcase of stunning architecture.
The mission statement of the Center proclaims that: The J. Paul Getty Museum seeks to inspire curiosity about, and enjoyment and understanding of the visual arts by collecting, conserving, exhibiting and interpreting works of art of outstanding quality and historical importance. The museum collection has Pre 20th century European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture and decorative arts and 19th – 20th century American, European photography. On display at Christmas 2012 were photographs of Ray F. Metzler and the exhibit Farewell to Surrealism, the DYN School in Mexico. Besides the collections and exhibits the amazing architecture makes its own artistic statement. The main campus has five buildings set around a central courtyard. The courtyard provides a place to reflect and contemplate after viewing exhibits in any of the pavilions. Sight plus sound are incorporated to enhance the experience. Water that gently splashes in pools is also directed along a man made stream with boulders and rock falls that lead to a central garden The garden is a key element and focal point, popular to walk and stroll. Although the central garden is an impressive botanical display, Robert Irwin the designer described his creation as ” a sculpture in the form of a garden which aims to be art.”
The Getty Center is one of the most visited art museums in the United States with over 1.3 million visitors a year. They come not only to view the art, photography and sculpture but to enjoy an experience. The buildings, space and sounds combine to create a total immersive experience. In 1984 the architect Richard Meier was chosen for his Post Modernist design. The Getty Center is one of his most well known commissions. Meier’s work is influenced by early to mid century architects, especially that of Le Corbusier and Mies Van der Rohe. The Modernist school of design emphasized the rationalism of geometric forms and ideal proportions with an architectural base in science as opposed to reverence for emulating archaic traditions and beliefs. Le Corbusier believed in the mathematical order of the universe and placed a system of harmony and proportion at the center of his design philosophy and used the Golden Ratio of da Vinci which relies on the proportion of the human body to improve appearance and function.
The influence of Le Corbusier on Meier’s design for the Getty Center is evident. One example is how Meier lifted the bulk of the structure off of the ground supporting it by Pilotis – reinforced concrete stilts. Pilotis provide structural support allowing for a Free Facade. Non supporting walls could be designed as wished. An Open Floor Plan is another of Le Corbusier’s principles where floor space is free to be configured into rooms without concern of supporting walls. A common feature of Meier’s designs is the use of the color white, which has been used throughout history for cathedrals and public places in the Meditteranian regions of Spain, S. Italy and Greece. Meier was part of a group of 5 Post Modernist architects known as the Whites, primarily because all of their structures where white – inside and out. Stone was chosen by Meier for the facade and floors of the Getty because it is often associated with public architecture, qualities of permanence, solidity, simplicity, warmth and craftsmanship. In the publication Architecture of Today (Paris:1991) Richard Meier described his interest in Modern Design “The great promise and richness of some of the formal tenets of modernism have almost unlimited areas for investigation…I work with volume and surface, I manipulate forms in light, changes in scale and view, movement and stasis.”
The photography and art at the Getty Center is a fabulous collection but it is the simple geometric forms of the architecture that create the environment. In my research I learned that the primary grid of the structure is a 30″ square.
The Getty Center Squares is the Art that caught my attention and is imbedded in my memories. Explore your world and be inspired. Aloha.
P.S Is a simple square art?