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The Central Garden

The 134,000-square-foot Central Garden at the Getty Center is the work of artist Robert Irwin. The design of the Central Garden re-establishes the natural ravine between the Museum and the Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities with an inviting, tree-lined walkway that leads the visitor through an extraordinary garden experience. The walkway traverses a stream planted on each side with a variety of grasses and gradually descends to a plaza where bougainvillea arbors provide scale and a sense of intimacy. The stream continues through the plaza and ends in a cascade of water over a stone waterfall or "chadar," into a pool in which a maze of azaleas floats. Around the pool is a series of specialty gardens, each with a variety of plant material. All of the foliage and materials of the garden have been selected to accentuate the interplay of light, color, and reflection.

The process of creating the Central Garden began for Irwin in 1992, when he started working with Harold M. Williams and Stephen D. Rountree of the J. Paul Getty Trust in consultation with Richard Meier, the architect of the Getty Center. Irwin has also worked closely with Richard Naranjo, the Getty’s manager of grounds and gardens, and the landscape architecture firm of Spurlock Poirier, in finalizing all facets of the garden.

Construction Schedule

Spring 1996 Begin grading on the reflecting pool and chadar wall

Spring 1997 Complete grading for remainder of garden;

Begin construction of stream

Summer 1997 Complete construction of stream;

Install bridges and walkways;

Begin irrigation and first plantings;

Complete planting and installation of final details

December 1997 Garden completed;

Getty Center opens to the public

The Central Garden in Context

In addition to the Central Garden, the Getty Center features abundant landscaping for public enjoyment. Emmet L. Wemple & Associates Landscape Architects has designed the landscaping of the major hillsides of the 110-acre site; Olin Partnership, Philadelphia, has designed the other gardens throughout the campus.


More than 500 varieties of plant material are used in the landscaping of the Central Garden, including:

Botanical name

Common name


Platanus acerifolia

'Yarwood' London Plane

Lagerstroemia indica

'Muskogee' Crape Myrtle

Stream Garden:

Helichrysum petiolatum


Cotyledon orbiculata

no common name


various species

Tibouchina urvilleana

Princess Flower

Geranium psilostemon



no common name

Terrace Bowers:


no common name


Muhlenbergia rigens

Deer Grass

Festuca mairei

Maire's Fescue

Terrace Gardens:

Hydrangea macrophylla

Garden Hydrangea

Iris species

no common name

Rosa species

Floribunda roses

Tulips, South African and
Mediterranean Bulbs

no common names

Tropaeolum malus

Garden Nasturtium

Erigeron karvinskianus


Sempervivum tectorum

Hen and Chicks

Penstemon species

Beard Tongue

Salvia Species


Cosmos species

no common name

Azalea Pool:

Three varieties of Southern Indica


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About the Getty:

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

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