Paul Getty Center Los Angeles California
Paul Getty Center Los Angeles California

Architecture ‘par excellence’

Richard Meier is not just one of America’s most well-known architects. Still, he has also received numerous European commissions in the last decade, many of them for art galleries and museums, including the Frankfurt Museum fĂźr Kunsthandwerke. Meier is known for his white architecture. His philosophical roots may be found in his participation in the New York Five. This group tried to rejuvenate architecture in the United States in the 1960s by establishing a form and theory approach based on the work of the interwar Modernists. Each chose a different architect as a model: Meier took Le Corbusier’s purist phase and developed a gleaming white architecture based on Platonic shapes, which he did exceedingly well.

Paul Getty is a member of the Getty family, which has a long history of supporting the arts, including the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, a replica of a Pompeian Villa. His conservative and commercial design has been criticised. Still, his famous contract for the Getty Center solidified his position as the museum architect par excellence.


The new building was a tremendously ambitious undertaking aimed at establishing the centre as a world-class research institute. It uses cutting-edge technology for book conservation, storage, and retrieval. It is built on a desert ridge just outside of Los Angeles, on the San Diego freeway, and is more of a campus than a single building. A gallery, conservation centre, administration facilities, and a library are all part of the project. Visitors to the centre will be able to get there on foot or take a specially designed tram. Getty specified that the structure should not be “white.” As a result, Meier has had to give up one of his trademarks. However, the building’s design preserves his commitment to basic geometry. Meier has constructed a vast and colossal design in keeping with the defensive stance of the site, one that lacks his customary “pristine gloss” because of the use of highly fossilised marble as the principal cladding material. According to some critics, this is strewn across the ridge informally, giving the impression of the Great Wall of China.


McDermott, C. (1997). 20th century design. Carlton.

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