The Getty Center is an elegant museum and research center that overlooks Santa Monica. Last week, I had a free afternoon to explore The Getty and I didn’t want to leave.
The first surprise was a spotless magnet-tram that took us from the parking garage and up the mountain, to the museum. It’s a brilliant way to keep traffic and exhaust poops far from the Getty’s quiet beauty. On the return tram ride, we realized how well it divided person-traffic, too. The place was packed and somehow we were driving away in minutes.
For the first hour we practically ran through the grounds, surprised and hyper. The Getty’s design, finished in the early 1950′s, was incomparable to any outdoor architecture I’d seen before. Sleek, white stone tiles went on forever, spilling up onto the separated buildings and pillars. A shallow, rectangular pool centered the stone foyer, ending in a fountain that changed color after dusk. Surrounding the main foyer were more layered pavilions, followed by grassy hills, perfectly manicured gardens, and more fountains. Lots of fountains. Shiny couples were sprawled across the hills, picnicking. A forty′s big-band echoed off the stone and into the gardens, while black-tie wait staff served white wine and snacks to anyone looking famished. Ryan and I felt like we’d stepped into a movie set from 2054. Except there was also an eery element of nostalgia. Basically, Aeon Flux IRL.
The best exhibit was called Overdrive: La Constructs the Future. This temporary section focused on the creative work in architecture, urban planning, commercial development, and engineering of Los Angeles. Sketches and blueprints taller than me opened our eyes to some colorful reasons to look past the LA traffic.
My favorite was the section on LAX, the world’s first true airport. Today flying is routine, like chewing. Air traffic fills the sky, so good airport design is expected in anyplace with a flight plan. But this wasn’t the case in the 60′s, when flying was new and exciting for anyone that could afford a ticket. LAX was a fresh thought at this point. Something attractive, utilitarian, long-lasting.
Airports weren’t the only addition during LA’s cultural rise; the automotive industry was also changing fast. Cars became more prevalent for housewives and teens and quickly altered the day-to-day for most people in LA. As it did, bleak auto design warped into chrome wonders of gas-powered art. These were my favorite of the sketches in the exhibit. Exaggerated angles made models, like a ’54 Impala, look brand new. Those sketches realigned my perspective of what “vintage” means. Pretty strange.
Overdrive even had a room dedicated to the construction and early parks of Disneyland. I managed to snap this guy before the security guard yelled at me.
I used to think Disney World and Disneyland were just Six Flags + childhood. Apparently I’m still an ignorant Disney-virgin… and now I know. I. must. go.
I’d suggest The Getty Center to anyone. Also, it’s free- what more could I say?!