Alle Beiträge von Talitha Breidenstein

Richard Meier, The Getty Center, 1997, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90049, USA

On our second last day of the field trip we left Santa Monica early in order to be in time for our full day at the Getty Centre on top of Santa Monica Mountains. After parking at street level, we journeyed to the Campus by tram. Upon our arrival we were greeted by a wide set of stairs leading up to the main access point. From here all the different parts of the Centre are walkable.

The Getty Center, photo by the author

The off-white travertine and the baked aluminium panels of Richard Meier’s design glistened in the sun as we made our way to the Getty Research Institute. Our group received the warmest welcome by one of their curatorial staff. In the commencing two hours we were given the opportunity to study a various number of plans, architectural sketches and photos from the Getty’s archives. With amazement we discovered many details in the sketches and plans as well as gained a greater understanding of how many of the buildings we went to see earlier on our trip came into existence and were structured. The architecture of John Lautner, Richard Neutra, Rudolf M. Schindler, Franklin D. Israel, William Krisel and Frank Gehry, photographed in many instances by Julius Shulman, was easier to comprehend thoroughly because of the material we were allowed to study. Engrossed in these treasures, we greatly enlarged our understanding of the houses history, structure, functioning and design. The development of each architect’s idea suddenly became much more coherent.

The session followed a guided tour through the building itself. While we were introduced to five different architectural models, exhibited in various spaces of the Institute, we gained a grasp of its departments. Architecturally, the library especially revealed itself as a fascinating space to us. In decadent clarity rooms and hallways sit within the building while the orchestrated flow of sun rays constantly permeates the visitors view.

After a short lunch break at one of the local restaurants we joined an officially guided tour through the Getty Center’s architecture and garden. Gaining knowledge about Richard Meier’s artistic intentions as well as the history of the Getty itself made this an intriguing event. We were made aware of intricate details like the grid which Meier arranged all across the outside design. Continuous, straight lines dictate the entire surface of the building.

The Getty Center courtyard, photo by the author

The manufactured look of the Aluminium panels is contrasted with the natural travertine. Handpicked feature stones were selected by the architect to display the inlayed fossils, directing to the materials origins. Walking along the outer museum’s walls we were able to observe the textured surface of these feature stones. Meier, responding to the Californian weather, also integrated outside rooms to the outdoors area. These are an expression of his grander architectural philosophy.

After our tour, we spend the following two and a half hours exploring the campus on our own. Many of our group investigated the various exhibition wings of the Getty Museum, enjoying all of the collections treasures. The Getty’s garden lend itself to a few refreshing minutes in the Los Angeles sun.

The Getty Centre Garden, photo by the author

After an art-filled day our group returned to the peace and quiet of Santa Monica by the beach, full of new impressions and inspirations of how research in the field of history of art potentially could unfold itself. Our expectation towards the Getty Research Institute and the architecture of the Getty Center were superseded.

Talitha Breidenstein

John Lautner, Silvertop, 1957, 2138 Micheltorena St; Richard Neutra, Neutra Colony, 1948-1961, Silver Lake Blvd, Neutra Place, Earl St; Rudolf M. Schindler, Droste House, 1940, 2025 Kenilworth Ave, Los Angeles, CA

Upon our arrival at Silver Lake, right after we had parked our cars in front of Neutra’s Van Der Leeuw (VDL) house, we wandered across a lawned recreational area right by the reservoirs shore. To our surprise the water level appeared to be extremely low. We later learned from one of the residents that due to an effort by the municipality the lake was emptied. The home owners of Silver Lake neighbourhood had successfully fought the city on the resolution. The reservoir is now planned to be refilled by summertime in 2017. This is only possible thanks to the end of a seven-year long drought in California.

After observing many runners, picnickers, young families with toddlers roaming about the lake’s pathways we started out on our own adventure around their neighbourhood. Walking along Silver Lake Boulevard we turned unto Glendale Boulevard heading toward Neutra’s former office building. By the large sign up front, today, it appears to house the Neutra Institute Museum of Silver Lake.

Neutra Institute, Museum of Silver Lake, photo by the author

From street level just one storey is visible but as we wondered down the driveway along side the building it revealed two levels on the back. In Neutra fashion it is a flat top roof house dominated by rectangular forms. Long, horizontal window strips as well as sun shields decorate the sides and the back. The building was poorly maintained.

As our group continued on Glendale Boulevard we then turned on to Earl Street. Walking downhill Neutra Place came up on our left side. The cul-de-sac revealed several homes designed between the years of 1948 and 1961. Returning to Earl Street we then continued to discover the second part of the Neutra Colony on Silver Lake Boulevard.

Overall, the homes seemed well taken care of, appeared to provide every owner with individual housing design and secluded living space. In conversation, most of us concluded the houses to be similar to each other in the overall design theme. Nonetheless every home featured a different structural set up. Placement of stairways, doors and window fronts helped differentiate.

Neutra Colony on Silver Lake Boulevard, photo by the author

After a quick lunch break our group decided to meander through the West side of Silver Lake hoping to catch a closer glimpse of John Lautner’s Silvertop (1957) as well as Rudolf M. Schindler’s Droste House (1940). As we ascended Kenilworth Avenue the Droste House made an appearance as the road took a turn. Gazing at the architectural sight from street level suddenly the very friendly couple owning and living in the home opened the door and welcomed us in. Excited, we followed their invitation. As they guided us through their well cared for home our group marvelled at the many details Schindler added to the design: invisible storage space, air circulation strategy, window placements et al. All of us were very appreciative of the family’s openness to share about their experience of living in and owning a Schindler designed home.

Droste House living room, photo by the author

Upon our drive leaving the neighbourhood we managed to view Lautner’s Silvertop from the distance. The shiny, curved structure clearly stood out among all the homes on Silver Lake’s West Side.

Strolling through Silver Lake left me with a furthered understanding of the neighbourhoods quality. Neutra’s, Schindler’s, Lautner’s, among many other renown architects’, homes are situated within Los Angeles’ urban context and their individual design is powerful because of it. Having previous to our visit only viewed photos and read about Silver Lake this experience led me to comprehend its and the architects‘ home architecture.

Talitha Breidenstein

John Lautner, Silvertop, 1957, 2138 Micheltorena St; Richard Neutra, Neutra Colony, 1948-1961, Silver Lake Blvd, Neutra Place, Earl St; Rudolf M. Schindler, Droste House, 1940, 2025 Kenilworth Ave, Los Angeles, CA


View of Silver Lake neighbourhood
View of Silver Lake neighbourhood, image from Wikimedia Commons

The Silver Lake area in Los Angeles takes its name from one of the expansive water reservoirs five miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, the historic core of the city. Herman Silver was a member of the first city’s water commission who lend his name to the reservoirs. Silver Lake reservoir was constructed in 1906 and integral to William Mulholland’s plan to support LA’s water system. In 1989, it was declared a cultural monument by the cultural heritage commission. Sites are awarded these titles based on their architectural, historic and cultural merit.
In the beginning of the 1900s Silver Lake started to draw a bohemian crowd. Writers, architects and political activists flocked to this area. Visionary modernists started moving to this part of Los Angeles after Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Hollyhock House for Aline Barnsdall, a socialist and oil heiress. Silver Lake began to appeal to the creatives after it became home to a number of movie studios: The Mack Sennett Studios, The Mixville Studios, Talmadge, Monogram Studios and even the first official Disney Studio. Because of this, many screenwriters, set designers and cartoonists decided to move to Silver Lake. The population of artistically inclined people grew with time. And many were highly receptive of new architectural ideas. The ideal soil for avant-garde architects to build upon.

Silver Lake today includes architecture designed by Richard Neutra, Rudolf M. Schindler, Gregory Ain, John Lautner and Lloyd Wright among others. Neutra as well as Lautner decided to build their own homes in this neighbourhood. Now, the area displays a great number of Mid-Century Modern architecture as well as popular Spanish Colonial Revival, Spanish Mediterranean, French Normandy, English Tudor, Gothic, and Post-modern styles.
An accumulation of Neutra designed houses, colloquially known as ‚Neutra Conlony‘, sits on the East shore of Silver Lake. Right on Silver Lake Boulevard to the right of Earl Street one finds, from North to South: Sokol House (constructed in 1948), Inadomi House (1960), Kambara House (1960) and Yew House (1957). One street up the hill, parallel to the shore, runs Neutra Place. The cul-de-sac was officially renamed in the 1990s during a ceremony held by the city of LA. It now is the proud address to, from North to South, Reunion (1949), Flavin (1958), Ohara (1961) and Akai House (1961). On the opposing side of Earl Street Richard Neutra designed the Treweek House in 1948. All homes in the colony are characteristic examples to the architects’ style. Rectangular outlines, the lack of ornament, flat roofs, sliding glass walls and outdoor decks are overall present. Indoors and outdoors are intertwined, to enjoy the Californian weather in all aspects. Not far from the colony, on Glendale Boulevard, Richard and Dion Neutra set up their original office. The city of Los Angeles listed the building as a Historic-Cultural Monument.
On the Western hills of Silver Lake John Lautner built one of his masterpieces, the Silvertop. The grounds of the home include an infinity pool and a tennis court. Never inhabited by the original owners its design became well known thanks to the shimmering, arched roof. Ingenious engineering enabled a spacious interior with glass walls suspended from the ceiling. Hence enabling stunning views across Silver Lake and the mountains.
On the same side of the water reservoir Schindler constructed a three-story home for the Droste family in 1940. It boasts a two-story picture window as well as features all the elements of classical modern design.
With the resurge of interest in Californian modernism all of the houses accomplish large sums on the real estate market. For example, the Kambara House listed for the first time in 2014 for $2.3 Million. Today the entire Silver Lake area is a highly sought after neighbourhood and continues to thrive. Residents thoroughly enjoy the views, hip cafes and dog parks.

• Hines, Thomas S.: Architecture of the Sun. Los Angeles Modernism 1900-1970, New York 2010
• Smith, Laura Massino: Architecture Tours L.A. Guidebook. Silver Lake, Atglen, PA 2007
• (accessed last 16.03.2017)

Talitha Breidenstein

Richard Meier, The Getty Center, 1997, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90049, USA

Getty Center arial view, image by Wikimedia Commons

A World Famous Institution in An Iconic Building

The Getty Center opened to the public in December 1997 and has been a fascinating impression ever since. It has become a beloved refuge from monotony to many Angelenos as well as an internationally recognised architectural icon. Designed by the renowned architect Richard Meier the Getty Center grounds house the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Getty Museum.
Situated on top of a hill in the Santa Monica Mountains the complex is highly visible. The land purchased by the Getty Trust sits right by the San Diego Freeway and is therefore ever present to many as they drive by on their daily commute. The campus itself consumes 24 acres on a 110-acre site, while the entire grounds occupy 742 acres to ensure the surroundings remain in its natural state. Through this, the Getty distinguishes itself from a multitude of other Art museums as it is embedded in a natural environment. Often Art institutions are set within an urban context and the museums architecture engages with, responds to the encircling buildings.
The Getty Center’s site was specifically decided upon in order to represent a grander vision. It was imagined to be easily accessible, visible, recognisable and unique in appearance. All attributes best associated with the Getty’s institutions.
The design of the Center was envisioned to correspond with its environment; for one the unique Californian landscape and secondly the tradition of Californian modernism, in awareness of the architectural design by Schindler, Neutra et al. Richard Meier created a building that is consistent with Californian modernism and partly, because of this it oozes permanence.
The hilltop site is crossed by two ridges which Richard Meier perceived as vector lines. The lowest parallels the freeway and faces Los Angeles downtown. Here the architect placed the museum, visible and approachable. The second ridge, slightly raised, may be read as the extension to the freeway after it bends, just a little further out of the city from where it runs parallel to the museum. Here Meier situated the various institutions united under the aegis of the Getty Trust. The design process of the Center influenced the shaping of the Getty Trust programs. Concurrently the programs impacted the design process of the Center. It was built from the inside out. The desire in the early 1980s was to unite the different initiatives in one location, to further and expand the already existent cooperation and collaboration. However, at the time none of the programs, besides the museum, were established enough to state their precise requirements in regard to a building that should house them. As it became apparent that the Getty Villa’s capacity no longer sufficed the collections space it was resolved to build a new, larger site. From the initial decision to the public opening the Getty Center has been a fourteen-year project: plan, design, build and occupy.
The construction developed as more complicated and long winding than originally anticipated. Difficulties arose by the nature of the land, edifice on a hilltop, manoeuvring the building materials to the construction site and no prior installation of sanitation by the municipality. Angelenos followed the progress of construction as they commuted on the freeway over almost a dozen years. The process was very unlike Los Angeles and served as another example of the Getty’s permeance.
At the same time, the complexities of the site provided a clean slate in regard to its shape and form. Therefore, the selection of the architect was of great importance to the Getty Trust. Instead of an open call for designs, architects were invited to participate. Richard Meier’s idea was chosen because his office was deemed capable to finish a large project like this and because of the museums he completed prior to the Getty in Barcelona, Frankfurt and Paris.
The scheme is dominated by a rhythmic repetition of curves, curvilinear elements and a natural garden – all to soften the grid created by the off-white travertine and white metal panels. The 1.2 million square feet of Italian stone, cleft-cut and textured, as well as metal panels clothe the Getty Center. The garden, central to the complex, is part of the Getty’s permanent collection, a land sculpture crafted by Californian landscape artist Robert Irwin. It extends the relation to the natural environment of the site.
The entire Center is permeated by space and light. This is integral to the design. Openings in the architecture as well as the garden create space. Filtered natural light, as not to damage the Art, was used in the top floor interior galleries. The galleries were modelled by Thierry Despont.
At the Center of the Campus sits the arrival hall. It is reached by two computer operated trams, elevating the visitors from street level and parking facilities to the Art. Installed as a solution to combat accessibility of the complex, the use of the trams implements the feeling of an adventure and the out of the ordinary. The Getty Center serves as refuge from the daily, a safe haven to experience Art and enjoy a view.

Ragsdale, J. Donald: American museums and the Persuasive Impulse. Architectural Form and Space as Social Influence, Newcastle upon Tyne 2009
Walsh, John and Deborah Gribbon: The J. Paul Getty Museum and Its Collections. A Museum for the New Century, Los Angeles 1997
Williams, Harold M. (et al): Making Architecture.
The Getty Center, Los Angeles 1997

Author: Talitha Breidenstein