The Getty Center is a campus of the Getty Museum and other programs of the Getty Trust. The $1.3 billion Center opened to the public in 1997 and is well known for its architecture, gardens, 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 hover train funicular.
The J. Paul Getty Museum and draws 1.3 million visitors annually. The Center branch of the Museum features pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, and decorative arts; and 19th- and 20th-century American, Asian, and European photographs. 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 also houses the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, and the J. Paul Getty Trust. The Center's design included special provisions to address concerns regarding earthquakes and fires.
The 134,000-square-foot Central Garden at the Getty Center is the work of artist Robert Irwin. He said that the Central Garden "is a sculpture in the form of a garden, which aims to be art." Water plays a major role in the garden. A fountain near the restaurant flows toward the garden and appears to fall into a grotto on the north garden wall. The resulting stream then flows down the hillside into the azalea pool. The designers placed rocks and boulders of varying size in the stream bed to vary the sounds from the flowing water. A tree-lined stream descends to a plaza, while the walkway criss-crosses the stream, which continues through the plaza, and goes over a stone waterfall into a round pool. A maze of azaleas floats in the pool, around which is a series of specialty gardens. More than 500 varieties of plant material are used for the Central Garden, but the selection is "always changing, never twice the same".