Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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At the Museums: Playground for the Human Spirit Volume 51 Number 3, May/June 1998
by Ellen Herscher

[image]The $1 billion Getty Center in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains (John Stephens © J. Paul Getty Trust) [LARGER IMAGE]

The Getty's new hilltop enclave overlooking Los Angeles has been compared to a medieval castle, a cathedral, a monastery, the Athenian Acropolis, and a Hollywood film set. For the half-million visitors who have flocked there since it opened in December, it is truly a playground for the human spirit. Approached by a silently gliding electric train, the buildings and landscape combine to form a labyrinth of spaces. Passages, terraces, fountains, pools, and small unexpected gardens entice the visitor to explore among them. The rough travertine surfaces, filled with fossilized impressions of leaves, feathers, fish, and shells, call out to be touched. Lookouts offer stunning views of the city, mountains, ocean, and sunsets.

Built at a cost of $1 billion and designed by renowned American architect Richard Meier, the new complex brings together all of the Getty Trust operations, previously scattered throughout the greater Los Angeles area. With an extraordinary new facility and an endowment of $4.3 billion, the Getty is poised to become one of the most powerful forces in the humanities and visual arts since the Renaissance princes.

* Click here for ARCHAEOLOGY's list of current exhibitions.

Ellen Herscher is a contributing editor to ARCHAEOLOGY.

© 1998 by the Archaeological Institute of America