The Getty Villa: A Bit of Ancient Italy in L.A.

More than two years after moving to LA, I finally visited the “Getty Villa,” one of the two J. Paul Getty museums in LA, the other being the much more known Getty Center.

The Getty Villa’s history is interesting. In the early 1950s, millionaire John Paul Getty opened a gallery next to his home in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood to house his art collection. In the early 1970s, as the art collection grew, he decided to build a museum (The Getty Villa) not too far from his house. The building was inspired on the Villa of the Papyri, a luxurious villa at Herculaneum, Italy. But since the Villa of the Papyri was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and much of it remained unexcavated, many of the villa’s architectural and landscaping details were inspired by other ancient Roman houses in Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae. Getty died in 1976 without ever visiting the Villa, which opened in 1974.

With the move of the Museum to the Getty Center, the Pacific Palisades building was renovated and reopened on January 28, 2006. The Getty Villa collection has 44,000 Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities dating from 6,500 BC to 400 AD.  Admission is free but parking is $15. And you need to make reservation due to parking space restrictions. They also have a very nice casual restaurant in the premises. It’s worth a visit!

The Museum Grounds

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The American Venice

In a earlier post about Venice Beach, I mentioned the Venice Canals and posted a few photos of it. Having spent a delightful hour walking around the three-mile grid of canals recently, I enjoyed it so much I thought the area deserved a separate post just for itself.

Since the Canals are not easily seen from the more touristy sites in Venice, not every visitor has the opportunity to visit them. So while large numbers of fun-seeking tourists visit the outlandish Venice Boardwalk and the adjoining residential area near the Venice Pier, the Canals neighborhood see fewer and more low-key visitors who appreciate a relaxed stroll over a number of inter-connecting pathways and bridges, where one can admire the peaceful beauty of the place and the interesting properties along the way.

Here’s a slide show of my photos of the Canals and a bit of the area’s history.

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“The Venice Canal Historic District is a district in the Venice section of Los Angeles, California. The district is noteworthy for its man-made canals built in 1905 by developer Abbot Kinney as part of his Venice of America plan. Kinney sought to recreate the appearance and feel of Venice, Italy, in Southern California. The canals are roughly bounded by Eastern Court on the east, Court A on the south, Strongs Drive on the west, and Court E on the north. There are four east-west canals (Carroll Canal, Linnie Canal, Howland Canal, and Sherman Canal) and two north-south canals (Eastern Canal and Grand Canal). The beautifully lit canals with gondoliers and arched bridges drew widespread publicity and helped sell lots in the development. However, as the automobile gained in popularity, the canals were viewed by many as outdated, and the bulk of the canals were filled in 1929 to create roads. By 1940, the remaining canals had fallen into disrepair, and the sidewalks were condemned by the city. The canal district remained in poor condition for more than 40 years, as numerous proposals to renovate the canals failed due to lack of funding, environmental concerns, and disputes as to who should bear  the financial responsibility. The canals were finally renovated in 1992, with the canals being drained and new sidewalks and walls being built. The canals re-opened in 1993 and have become a desirable and expensive residential section of the city. The residential district surrounding the remaining canals was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. However, in recent years, there has been extensive renovation work on many of the old houses, and many large, modern houses have been built.” (Wikipedia)

L.A. Architecture: Frank Gehry’s Iconic Buildings

Before moving to L.A. I knew Frank Gehry was a prize-winning architect whose best-known works included: the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao Spain; the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles; the Dancing House in Prague; the Vitra Design Museum and the museum MARTa Herford in Germany; and 8 Spruce Street in New York City. When I moved here, I found out that Gehry is based in L.A. and a long-time resident of Santa Monica, his house not very far from where I live. I also learned that about other famous Gehry buildings around L.A.’s Westside. So, last month, I decided to see and photograph Gehry’s house and other works of the famous architect in neighborhoods I’ve come to know well.

The Gehry Residence, located near the corner of Washington Ave. and 22nd St., in Santa Monica, is hardly a conventional home. It clearly clashes with the rest of the houses and, while I like its quirkiness, I can see why it was not a welcomed addition to the neighborhood back in 1977, when Gehry was not even a known architect. Frank and Berta Gehry bought a pink bungalow that was originally built in 1920. Gehry chose to wrap the outside of the house with a new exterior while still leaving the old exterior visible. He used unconventional materials such as chain link fences and corrugated steel in the house. The rear and south facades were hardly touched and to the other sides of the house he wedged in titled glass cubes.

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The Binoculars Building (formerly known as the Chiat/Day building), at 340 Main St, in Venice Beach, was built in 1991. It is currently home to Google, as part of its expansion in Southern California. The building is notable for the three different styles used in the main facade on Main Street, particularly the massive sculpture of binoculars designed by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. The entrance to the parking garage is between the lenses of the binoculars. Unfortunately, unless you know someone at Google, you won’t be able to enter the building or the binoculars. It is indeed a very interesting and quirky piece of architecture.

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The Venice Beach House, at 2509 Ocean Front Walk, was designed in 1984 for artist Lynn Norton and writer William Norton. Much like Gehry’s own house in Santa Monica, the Norton House is a sculptural assemblage of everyday materials. It comprises several box-like units. The study pod, elevated on a massive support post, resembles the lifeguard stations on Venice beach. It’s not a pretty building but it is exquisite and it must be very pleasant to live in with lots of outdoor spaces to take in the beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean.

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The Walt Disney Concert Hall, at 111 S. Grand Ave. is one of Gehry’s most beautiful works, and is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, currently under the direction of maestro Gustavo Dudamel. Gehry was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1999 for his work on the Disney Hall. I have toured the building inside and outside (where there are beautiful gardens and a gorgeous large rose sculpture created for Mrs. Disney). I have also been to the Concert Hall for two performances. It’s magical. This building id definitely my favorite to photograph and to attend events at. And as many times as I go, I always stand in awe of its whimsical beauty.

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Click here to see the Los Angeles Times interview with Gehry about the making of the Disney Hall: http://www.latimes.com/videogallery/77277149/Entertainment/Frank-Gehry-on-the-making-of-Disney-Hall