Last Sunday, I was able to visit the Getty Center in Los Angeles. Robert Irwin, an artist, was responsible for the landscape design and I'm always curious to see how someone who is not an landscape architect approaches a design.
Below is a google earth image of the garden -- for orientation.
The Getty sits on a hilltop in the northeast end of Los Angeles. The Irwin garden focuses primarily on a walk downhill, along the south slope. Water leads you from the museum's main plaza to a lower shade garden with criss-crossing paths, ultimately reaching a circular parterre garden at the southernmost point.
Below is the source for the water.
The fact that this urn below is comprised of one massive, beautifully polished piece of stone is pretty impressive.
On the lower lever, the water falls into a pool:
From there, water passes beneath the sidewalk, and reappears a few feet further south, where it begins to trickle further down the hill, as paths traverse it.
The water then reaches a large pool, some thirty or forty feet below the lower terrace.
Hedges create a parterre garden that seems to 'float' on this water.
Corten steel retains raised planting beds, which echo the circular shape of the parterre.
At this point, I have been following the water with a horizon line of Los Angeles ahead of me for a good ten or fifteen minutes. Though I have been descending in grade, I can make out most of the city on my way downhill. But upon reaching the parterre, at the garden's culmination point, I am prohibited from an expansive view of the city further south.
Furthermore, at the path's conclusion, I am faced with a "No Visitors" sign and forced to turn around and retrace my steps (or continue in a circle, which provides essentially the same experience). To make absolutely certain that no one can see beyond the parterre area, the path is sunken so much that you absolutely cannot see anything beyond the corten wall and the gravel that sits on grade.
Obviously, this was intentional, but I don't understand why. I mean, I can imagine all the theoretical hornswaggle designers spout when they defend a scheme, but knowing that I was being led to this point, only to feel frustrated that I could not progress further, nor could I see the beautiful view... Well, it really annoyed me. Also, on a gorgeous day, when the museum was teeming with people, very few people lingered here. Upper grassed areas were sites for picnics and the outdoor cafe was packed, but the area around the parterre was not used for rest, nor reflection, nor conversation. I can't blame the visitors, really -- the space felt aggressive. As if the parterre (and by extension, the designer) was saying, 'No. Look here.'
Generally, I try to avoid criticism; other people, more qualified than I, can argue a design's success or failure. But this was surprisingly disappointing, and I felt compelled to post about it.
There were some other stellar design details and lovely plants on the site, so I will post some more about that in the next day or two.