The Getty Center, in Los Angeles, California, is a campus of the Getty Museum and other programs of the Getty Trust. The $1.3 billion Center opened to the public on December 16, 1997 and is well known for its architecture and views overlooking Los Angeles. The Center sits atop a hill connected to a visitors' parking garage at the bottom of the hill by a three-car, cable-pulled hovertrain people mover. Located in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, the Center is one of two locations of the J. Paul Getty Museum and draws 1.8 million visitors annually. The Center branch of the Museum features pre-20th-century European paintings, illuminated manuscripts and decorative arts. In addition, the Museum's collection at the Center includes outdoor sculpture displayed on terraces and in gardens and the large Central Garden designed by Robert Irwin. Among the artworks on display is the Vincent Van Gogh painting Irises. Designed by architect Richard Meier, the campus houses the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Trust.
The Center's design included special provisions to address concerns regarding fires. The Getty Museum started in J. Paul Getty's house located in Pacific Palisades in 1954, he expanded the house with a museum wing. In the 1970s, Getty built a replica of an Italian villa on his home's land to better house his collection, which opened in 1974. After Getty's death in 1976, the entire property was turned over to the Getty Trust for museum purposes. However, the collection outgrew the site, which has since been renamed the Getty Villa, management sought a location more accessible to Los Angeles; the purchase of the land upon which the center is located, a campus of 24 acres on a 110-acre site in the Santa Monica Mountains above Interstate 405, surrounded by 600 acres kept in a natural state, was announced in 1983. The top of the hill is 900 feet above sea level, high enough that on a clear day it is possible to see not only the Los Angeles skyline but the San Bernardino Mountains, San Gabriel Mountains to the east as well as the Pacific Ocean to the west.
The price tag of the center totaled $733 million which includes $449 million for construction, $115 million for the land and site work, $30 million for fixtures and equipment, $139 million for insurance, engineers' and architects' fees and safety measures, according to Stephen D. Rountree, former director of the Getty's building program and director of operations and planning for the trust. Current appraisal for the property fluctuates with the market, but in June 2013 the land and buildings were estimated at $3.853 billion. In 1984, Richard Meier was chosen to be the architect of the center. After an extensive conditional-use permit process, construction by the Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Company began in August 1989; the construction was delayed, with the planned completion date moved from 1988 to 1995. By 1995, the campus was described as only "more than halfway complete"; the center opened to the public on December 16, 1997. Although the total project cost was estimated to be $350 million as of 1990, it was estimated to be $1.3 billion.
After the center opened, the villa closed for extensive renovations and reopened on January 28, 2006, to focus on the arts and cultures of ancient Greece and Etruria. The museum displays collections at both the Getty Center and the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades. In 2005, after a series of articles in the Los Angeles Times about the spending practices of the Getty Trust and its then-president Dr. Barry Munitz, the California Attorney General conducted an investigation of the Getty Trust and found that no laws had been broken; the trust agreed to appoint an outside monitor to review future expenditures. The Getty Trust experienced financial difficulties in 2008 and 2009 and cut 205 of 1,487 budgeted staff positions to reduce expenses. Although the Getty Trust endowment reached $6.4 billion in 2007, it dropped to $4.5 billion in 2009. The endowment rebounded to $6.2 billion by 2013. Meier has exploited the two naturally-occurring ridges by overlaying two grids along these axes; these grids serve to define the space of the campus while dividing the import of the buildings on it.
Along one axis along the other axis lie the administrative buildings. Meier emphasized the two competing grids by constructing strong view lines through the campus; the main north-south axis starts with the helipad includes a narrow walkway between the auditorium and north buildings, continues past the elevator kiosk to the tram station, through the rotunda, past the walls and support columns of the exhibitions pavilion, the ramp besides the west pavilion and the central garden. Its corresponding east-west visual axis starts with the edge of the scholar's wing of the Getty Research Institute, the walkway between the central garden and the GRI, the overlook to the azalea pool in the central garden, the walkway between the central garden and the west pavilion, the north wall of the west pavilion and the courtyard between the south and east pavilions; the main axes of the museum grid, offset by 22.5 degrees begins with the arrival plaza, carries through the edge of the stairs up to the main entrance, aligns with the columns supporting the rotunda as well as the center point of the rotunda, aligns with travertine benches in the courtyard between the pavilions, in