Monday, January 5, 2009

Getty Adds New Department of Architecture and Design

The recently announced Department of Architecture and Design at the Getty Institute, is led by former head of Special Collections, Wim de Wit (left). De Wit has been with the institute since 1993 but originally hails from the Netherlands, where he trained as an architectural historian.

With a critical mass of architectural collections, the new department promises to create a forum for research and discussion as well as putting more of the institute’s holdings on display to the public. The assistant curator, Christopher Alexander, (no, not that one) is an artist and an urban planner.

The Getty Institute in Los Angeles is well known for its photography and ancient art collections, but its architecture-related holdings are not as well known but equally impressive. Scholars and enthusiasts have access to the Julius Shulman Archive and the Bauhaus Papers as well as the archives of Le Corbusier documenter Lucien Herve and Frank Lloyd Wright documenter Edmund Teske. Southern Californian architecture is well-represented with the archives of Ray Kappe, Pierre Koenig, and John Lautner. The Getty also acquired all the drawings of Daniel Liebeskind's unrealized projects and sketchbooks (above right) with his early thinking.

In the past the Getty mostly looked at European architects and a bit at Americans architects in general. Since the arrival of the Shulman archives four years ago, people started to realize that the Getty was serious about architecture. The archives were a big commitment involving cataloging over 250,000 objects. As a result, the focus changed to California—Koenig, Lautner, Kappe, Frank Israel.

From 2013 to 2014, they are planning a very big exhibition about California architecture from 1940 to 1990.

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