Sitting atop a hill in the midst of the Santa Monica Mountains, the Getty Center comprises a sprawling garden and a formidable structure filled with unique art exhibits. Downtown Los Angeles, Century City, the San Gabriel Mountains, and the Pacific Ocean are all visible from the Central Garden Lawn and the J. Paul Getty Museum Garden Terrace Cafe. The museum itself is fascinating to look at; more than a million square feet of beige travertine was used to construct the building, and in the sunlight the building becomes reflective.
Visitors who venture into the museum are greeted with tall white walls and abundant natural light. Sunlight combined with filters specifically designed for display purposes cause considerably less damage to paintings than artificial lighting. Special care is taken to preserve the art that is displayed at the Getty Center, and photographs are displayed on a rotation to avoid deterioration. There are, however, some permanent exhibits. European sculptures, for instance, are perpetual fixtures. The art is separated by time period, and some rooms contain works of various mediums that were created during the same era. The museum collects many different types of art, including manuscripts and rare books that are housed in the Getty Research Institute.
The 134,000-square-foot Central Garden is a common place for visitors to relax and take in the view. It includes a smooth walkway surrounded by trees and a variety of other flora. A gentle stream leads to a pool that features a floating maze. Robert Irwin designed the garden in the early 1990s, and it has been carefully maintained since 1997, when the Getty Center opened. Irwin embraced the fact that his work of living art would grow and change over the years, and the plaza floor bears a carved sentiment, “Always changing, never twice the same,” to honor him.