“Gardening always has been an art, essentially.”
The Central Garden, created by artist Robert Irwin, lies at the heart of the Getty Center. The 134,000-square-foot design features a natural ravine and tree-lined walkway that leads the visitor through an extraordinary experience of sights, sounds, and scents.
The walkway traverses a stream that winds through a variety of plants and gradually descends to a plaza where bougainvillea arbors provide scale and a sense of intimacy. Continuing through the plaza, the stream cascades over a stone waterfall or “chadar,” into a pool with a floating maze of azaleas. Specialty gardens encircle the pool. All of the foliage and materials of the garden have been selected to accentuate the interplay of light, color, and reflection.
Irwin began planning the Central Garden in 1992, as a key part of the Getty Center project. Since the Center opened in 1997, the Central Garden has evolved as its plants have grown and been trimmed. New plants are constantly being added to the palette. Irwin’s statement “Always changing, never twice the same” is carved into the plaza floor, reminding visitors of the ever-changing nature of this living work of art.
Robert Irwin’s work at Dia:Beacon may elude the casual visitor. It consists of a master plan for the museum and its outdoor spaces, as well as design work on numerous aspects of the project, most notably the extensive landscape environment, where Irwin was involved in every aspect of the plantings, paving and fencing, and windows and doors.
Most important, Irwin helped Dia consider the design of the Beacon project in experiential and environmental terms as a totality—from the visitor’s entrance, by car or by foot, down a driveway marked at its top by a gate and a new copper beech tree, through an orchard that serves as a parking lot, into a plaza that signals one’s arrival at the museum, into either a café and bookshop or the newly constructed entrance to the galleries, and from there down any of a number of possible paths through the museum’s interior and into the artists’ spaces, each specifically designed by the artist in question and/or by Dia to accommodate the work on view. Irwin’s work in Beacon lay across the borders of a number of different roles—landscape designer, architect, aesthetic philosopher—in a manner completely consistent with his practice as an artist, in which, among other things, he has questioned exactly where the boundaries lie around the role of the artist today.