The Getty Villa - Malibu

There are many historically inspired architectural buildings, mostly built to appeal to the eye of the visitor, but The Getty Villa was not only built based on an actual Roman building, using common materials for that era, but also lends itself as a great teaching tool.  The Getty Villa was built in the early 1970s.  Its owner, J. Paul Getty, was very involved in the design and development.  Due to the ever-growing collection of Greek and Roman art, an expansion project started in 1996.  Once again Getty worked very closely with the architects that were awarded the contract, Jorge Silvetti and his business partner of over 20 years, Rodolfo Machado.  Getty also enlisted the help of Norman Neuerburg as his archaeological consultant.  The plan was to create a “dynamic environment intended to promote the appreciation and preservation of the arts and cultures of classical antiquity” ( True, Marion, and Jorge Silvetti. The Getty Villa.)

Along with the renovation, plans included additional buildings to house facilities dedicated to research, conservation, conservation training and performance.  A café and museum store is also featured.  The buildings are on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean in beautiful Malibu, CA and each building is at a slightly different elevation giving guests the effect of walking through an active excavation site. 

The main inspiration for the Getty Villa was the Villa de Papiri in Herculaneum.  Unfortunately due to the tragedy of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, no one has seen the building since A.D. 79.  So the architects based their construction on elements featured in similar houses in Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae.  The building materials throughout the structure include traditional Roman materials such as wood, bronze, glass, travertine and wood formed concrete.  Although the building draws its inspiration from ancient Roman architecture, it does have some modern amenities.  The upper and lower levels of the gallery are open and connected and skylights illuminate the exhibits with mostly natural lighting.  The walls have art support systems and attachment points in the floor for the permanent exhibits, making it easy to install and change exhibits.  The Getty Villa features over 23 galleries that house permanent collections and 5 galleries for moving exhibits.  The works cover more than 7000 years of ancient art, with approximately 44000 Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities, ranging from everyday artifacts to sculptures.  Each gallery has a different theme, such as Gods and Goddesses, the Trojan War, Dionysus and the theater, etc.  As Getty had intended, the museum doubles as a learning environment.   The Getty Villa is linked to UCLA and some of its programs. 

The architects thought of everything when they designed this museum.  The café, museum store and museum entrance are linked to the 450 seat outdoor theater.  At the top of the wide theater staircase, visitors are able to enjoy a traditional Roman herb garden filled with traditionally used herbs for cooking, medicine and ceremonies that release many great scents throughout the year.  Overall the museum site features four gardens.  At the center of the museum is the inner peristyle, which is a beautiful covered walkway, where visitors can really take in the beauty of the garden and the architecture. Visitors can also enjoy a beautiful reflecting pool, accompanied by bronze sculptures of women drawing water from a stream.  There are a variety of bronze sculptures featured throughout the gardens.  There are over 300 different types of plants featured, including the Roman pine.

               Overall Getty reached his goal.  He wanted to stay away from “thematization” and keep his work historically accurate.   He also wanted the building and museum to be a teaching tool, which he has also successfully accomplished.