Title page for ETD etd-11122007-141814

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Zell, Jennifer Kay
URN etd-11122007-141814
Title The Art of Perception: Robert Irwin's Central Garden at the J. Paul Getty Center
Degree Master of Landscape Architecture (M.L.A.)
Department Landscape Architecture
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Cathy S. Marshall Committee Chair
Kenneth Michaels Committee Member
Max Z. Conrad Committee Member
Michael Desmond Committee Member
  • landscape architecture
  • postmodernism
  • modernism
  • phenomenological art
Date of Defense 2007-10-30
Availability unrestricted
In this study of The Central Garden at the J. Paul Getty Center was found evidence that the Central Garden designed by Robert Irwin is a postmodern garden. Beginning with an evaluation and description of the individual elements and conditions of the garden, the study then explores the larger body of artistic work produced by Irwin. This investigation also extrapolates how the ideas of modernism and postmodernism have been applied to past works of landscape architecture. The precedents provide a basis for interpretation and analysis of the Central Garden.

Direct observation of visitors at the Central Garden provided evidence of the garden’s success as a perceptual work of art. Evaluating the Central Garden by how it choreographs and conditions individual perceptions is important in understanding the work as a postmodern garden. The J. Paul Getty Center is an ideal venue for a comparison between modern and postmodern forms. At the center clear evidence can be seen of the contrasting ideologies between the phenomenal and conditional concerns of Robert Irwin in the Central Garden and the Euclidian timelessness expressed in Richard Meier’s Getty Center buildings and site layout.

The Central Garden is a postmodern garden because it abandons classic geometric order and presents instead a formal and organizational structure similar to what postmodern theorist and architect Robert Venturi describes as a difficult whole. The garden displays an internally coherent organization and an order not derived from the architecture. Irwin also recombined past garden types into a new composition. The Central Garden does not present an artistic conception to be translated by the user nor does the garden design imply a pure or universal form.

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