Back to 2013: The Getty by Details

My only visit to the Getty Center was on an afternoon in April 2013.

4 hours away on business for a Las Vegas project, between selling my Albuquerque house and my next move, Los Angeles (LA) was a great weekend escape from familiarity and desert dust.

Starting in Calabasas and visiting a friend from the distant past, I can appreciate upscale and Mediterranean climate bliss.

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The place’s built landscapes and preserved open spaces almost look perfect: proof of talent, embrace of place, and a gentle but thoughtful touch.

Surfboards! Malibu is a short, winding drive down the canyon.

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Looking back at my photos of that trip, the visit after lunch in Malibu to the Getty Center was the highlight.

I’m planning a near-term weekend trip back to see other parts of the Getty missed. Also, there are now other aspects about my photos of the Getty which I did visit, but I didn’t grab onto back in 2013.

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White: many of you know I go to Marfa every few months, 4 hours from where I now live. Some of you can tell what I like there.

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The Getty has some striking similarities of how it’s sited, treated, and feels in huge LA, compared to other architecture and site-specific art in remote, tiny Marfa. Even with major differences in scale and well-contrived formality. Robert Irwin’s hand is in the design of parts of the Getty and even Marfa.

There is good-contrived, but there is terrible-contrived; both require only a bit of thinking to tell apart!

I can almost smell the cool, moist marine layer seen as haze in my photos. Not to mention the white Wisteria sinensis.

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Yes, plenty of white!

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Minimalism: clean lines without clutter are a part of so many contemporary art venues or design. Some of it looks trendy or too contrived, similar to a copy. But some of it looks deeper and from the mind and heart, similar to purposed.

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The Getty is purposed.

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Plantsmanship: the Getty has everyone’s favorite grand feature of what large cacti / succulents can be on southern California’s coastal slopes, Sunset Zone 23. It was great to see that overlook in person, after reading others’ blog posts on it.

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But there’s much more there. Though it doesn’t hurt to start at the cactus overlook, then work your way back to everything else. The gardens start the moment you walk from your parked car to wait for the tram ride to the main part of the Getty.

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Plantsmanship and horticultural skill rule, including layering, texture, contrast, and even some formal pleaching. The plants make the hardscape and vice-versa.

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The angled stone paver band at the trees compared to the same stone pavers at the building perimeter really works, as does the Parthenocissus tricuspidata on the wall.

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Low stone sitting might also work for shorter people, or at least those without hiking and skiing-damaged knees, unlike me.

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Such Mediterranean plant imagery, with muted greens and fuzzy grays, all mounded and brought closer to eye level via containers.

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Next time, I’ll look at the garden areas other than the cactus overlook and along the main walkway, plus spend more time enjoying the art exhibits inside.

With the nearing of the Getty’s daily closing, I could only look down into this area and hope to return. This is their “Central Garden”.

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In almost no traffic back to Calabasas, it was a light dinner at Le Pain Quotidien. Including a decent croissant.

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The next day after a quick return to you-know-where for breakfast, it was back to the desert dust as the unknown unfurled. An unknown that I now know, seen from 5 years in the future.

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Driving over the mountain, it was soon a straight highway as strong winds buffeted me for 4 hours to Victorville and Las Vegas. I made the occasional stop to see some primo Yucca brevifolia.

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At the pass before dropping into southern Nevada, I remember the wind grew even colder. With biting sleet and snow flurries instead of dust, their joshua trees were just then blooming. Yucca schidigera and Coleogyne ramosissima joined in.

That area, Mountain Pass, is 4,730 feet elevation. It was still early April in the highest part of the high Mojave Desert.

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I mostly survived the coming unknown, and it’s now 2018!

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Front Fun Before Driving Home

When I lived in El Paso a few years, I was surprised how many landscapes were different than in Las Cruces – 45 minutes away and only 200 feet elevation difference.

Driving down often from Albuquerque for business, and for years, all three places seemed more similar.

The differences became obvious only by living in each. Before leaving El Paso, I saw a few landscapes with no prying eyes around.

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That front yard near my “fortress” project caught my eye. I get the need for unity and raising up interest to eye level, and I think El Paso does that well. But a pair of golden barrels potted all over the front isn’t registering.

I used to like Echinocactus grusonii, until I saw that was the Phoenix-default cactus on two trips this past spring. Stop it already, El Paso.

But not to worry, Paso del Norte region climatology will stop it.

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The last photo is for someone in Orange County CA, who has expressed their “love” for Washingtonia robusta. That’s what happens to the majority at 4500 feet elevation here, about every 20 years. She could only be so lucky!

While I’ve seen worse use of W. robusta, it’s a canyon tree and fails without the right context or climate. El Paso climate 3 – Baja California flora 0.

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Now, let’s pick on or pick out good from one of my nearby designs. Done under an extreme and counterproductive, architect-driven rush. Like a .357 magnum to my head in one hand, but with some bundles of money in the other hand, for me if I can take it.

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See why I go to Dasylirion wheeleri as my default accent plant? All the softening Melampodium leucanthum and Viguiera steneloba are gone – facilities or contractor-driven Roundup or pulling.

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The chainlink fencing, decided upon before I was hired to locate it properly, kept this revegetation area from becoming a moonscape.

See, it’s all good!

Seeding plus salvaged Fouquiera splendens, Yucca torreyi, and Agave lechuguilla are doing their thing and protected from “the treatment”.

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So are Fallugia paradoxa, Dasyochloa pulchellum, and other natives.

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And of course, Chilopsis linearis volunteers along sidewalks, through evil chainlink fencing, and about anywhere stormwater soaks in. And those blooms!

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Ending my drive-by landscape critique on the way home, the usual native plant suspects do what I envisioned, though the desert willows are stunted for some reason. Of course, the flowering, herbaceous plants are long-gone…..

But the blue-green of the sotols, with that curve of red wall tiles, is just what I ordered.

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Yowza!

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Now to My Landscape

I’m starting the design of the garden spaces at my new home. Study sketches are loose and rough, since they get marked up! That’s already revealing some things that won’t work.

My design statement:
serene, inviting, and sometimes dramatic outdoor spaces, with the soul of the desert

Don’t laugh; that’s to help me carry through with the idea!

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Here’s Option ‘A’ (front / northwest at the top):

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Once I’ve explored a few options, I might import the best design direction into SketchUp, to “walk around” the property and further refine a final design in CAD.

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The front, in and out:

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A tiny courtyard off my home office:

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In back:

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But here’s one catch.

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When I’m out on the covered patio, I see that. So…

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…I’ll work hard on the spot between my patio and their property. My first hunch is to build a wire mesh or hog panel trellis immediately between the cover’s columns, then plant a dense, evergreen vine.

The male half of the neighboring household and I get along well, and my not-so-subtle screening solution has already been discussed. We both agree on the issue.

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The other catch: views to the unbuildable hill lot with desert growth should be preserved, since once the area is built out, I won’t have mountains or other vistas. That hill out back is the power here, and the dining room view is desert serenity.

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Plant selection is to come, once functions and forms are explored and established.