Architect Richard Meier gives a detailed personal account of the building of the Getty Center, one of the most important works of architecture in recent history, which took 13 years to complete and cost one billion dollars.
Meier’s design philosophy emphasizes the human scale, freedom of movement, the experience of space and light as one moves around in the building, the relationships between solid and void, between openness and closure, between interior and exterior space, bringing light and the scenic view of the city, mountain and ocean into the architecture. He has a penchant for white color, because it accentuates the geometric features of the architecture and also reflects and refracts all the different colors.
During the building process, Meier had to make numerous adjustments and compromises to accomodate the neighboring Brentwood Homeowner’s Association, who added difficulties to the construction by stipulating the maximum height of the buildings and by prohibiting transport of dirt to and from the construction site. On a more personal level, he was hurt by the board’s decision to commission another person for the design of the outdoor garden, which to him was an integral part of the whole architecture. He considered leaving the project, but decided to continue as he had already invested so much in it.
When the building was finally completed, He derived enormous pride and satisfaction from the work and the anticipation that people will use and enjoy the special space that he has created long after he is gone.
I wish there were more photos in the book, but as Meier himself said during an interview, architecture has to be experienced in person. So I hope one day I’ll visit the Getty Center.