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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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.

 

Growing Pains

Until the weather cools and moistens back to normal for our monsoon season, this will probably be my last post on the hospital projects in El Paso. So much is summer-dormant, plus young plantings via a tight budget need more time to reveal their true look.

Besides, I have items for my own property to start posting on, even if they are only conceptual and not in the ground!

Sierra Campus:

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The view from higher on the site reveals the spatial and plant relationships. Closer-in shows gaps in the plants, below the missing Agave neomexicana. Or whatever I specified!

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Providence Memorial Campus:

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Here, it’s waiting for Koryn’s art installation to go in.

In this case, since the landscape contractor ignored the plan’s curved arrangements of Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’ and even some of the massings of other plants (namely the Maleophora crocea iceplant), her art will help soften the planting faux pas!

Usually it’s the other way around.

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Transmountain Campus:

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Aside from some missing Chrysactinia mexicana and the young age of the plants, the overall effect works, with the walls, while entering the site. That is, with the legibility of the Prosopis glandulosa trees up top and the Baccharis x Starns below.

The continued intrusion of all the behavioral signage detracts from the wayfinding consultant’s excellent signage, and it detracts from the view or plantings.

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Really? Very disturbing and the wrong way to go about things. “We’ve got a problem, Houston El Paso.”

This should look good in the fall or especially next spring, when everything recovers from our summer of June heat with July humidity.

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I’ll move onto the first problem I saw. In some other areas it was made so bad, I didn’t have the heart to post it.

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We chose to use the available reclaimed water to irrigate the landscape, instead of potable water. Partly from cost and partly from ecological reasoning. That greatly limited the plant palette, due to the elevated salts in reclaimed water.

Notice anything with the grasses, above and below?

Muhlenbergia emersleyi grasses were not tested in the extensive research materials I had from the El Paso Water Utility. That genera and many others now common weren’t even available in the trade or sold when those studies were made! My guess is with most other plants OK and the grasses not, that’s the issue.

Time will tell if that’s the reason. I hope I’m wrong, because this won’t work.

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Related Muhlenbergia rigens below is not much better, while other plants look OK.

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I’ll close with the parting shot, exiting the property. The simple lines of Agave parryi var. truncata playing off the Leucophyllum langmaniae and Yucca rostrata gives me hope.

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About that hope?

That the reclaimed irrigation water isn’t a problem and the grasses will decide to thrive, that the maintenance people and owner will do less counterproductive and unnecessary (and do right), and that these projects will enhance the entire community they touch.

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8/7/18 weather:
99F / 70F / .00″ or 37c / 21c / 0 mm