Buenos Aires, by Noelia Diaco. Photo is not visible, used only for sharing on social networks.

Road trip: Los Angeles

August 23, 2013

Start from the beginning of our road trip.

Day 8: Joshua Tree National Park to Los Angeles (156 miles)

The last leg of our trip. We stopped for two nights to attend Ben's cousin's wedding before booking it home to San Francisco. We didn't have a lot of time for sightseeing, but we did get over to the Getty Center before the wedding.

Opened in 1997, the museum was designed by architect Richard Meier and specializes in pre-20th-century European works of art. We spent most of our time enjoying the free architecture tour (entrance is free too!). A bit of what we learned:

The museum sits on a hilltop in the Santa Monica Mountains with views of the Pacific Ocean, San Gabriel Mountains and San Diego freeway. The buildings are positioned along two natural ridges in the hilltop.

Even before building the Getty Center, Meier was famous for his use of the color white, which he said reflects and refracts light, making color more vivid and helping us appreciate changing tones and hues in nature. Meier’s previous work had featured white metal-paneled walls, but the museum's new neighbors thought a bright white, hilltop museum would be a blight on their landscape and fought it. They compromised and the off-white, enamel-clad aluminum panels are only used on interior-facing walls. All exterior-facing walls are made of beige-colored travertine stone from Italy. When split along their natural grain, many of the stones revealed fossilized leaves, feathers, and branches.

A fossilized leaf in a piece of travertine. Meier had 1.2 million square feet, or 16,000 tons, of travertine brought in from Bagni di Tivoli, Italy.
Meier used the two naturally-occurring ridges, which diverge at a 22.5 degree angle, to organize the museum layout. He overlaid a grid along each axis — the galleries lie along one axis and the administrative buildings lie along the other. The helipad in the photo above is aligned along the main north-south axis. The primary structure of the grids is a 30-inch square, which is replicated throughout wall and floor elements.

The museum also features a 134,000-square-foot Central Garden designed by artist Robert Irwin. A walkway gradually descends to a pool with a floating maze of azaleas. New plants are frequently added to maintain Irwin's vision of the garden's ever-changing nature. "Always changing, never twice the same," is carved into the plaza floor.

In addition to the architecture tour, we enjoyed a special exhibit about Los Angeles' growth in the second half of the 20th century. Titled "Overdrive: L.A. Constructs the Future 1940-1990," the exhibit explored how Los Angeles rapidly evolved into one of the most populous and influential industrial, economic, and creative capitals in the world.

A panorama of the Getty Center. Scroll to the right to see the whole thing.

We met up with Ben's family for the wedding and then drove back to San Francisco the next day. On a bike, 400 miles made for a long day, but we made it.

Longest* motorcycle trip to date: complete.

- Steph

* Longest in terms of length of time; our Argentina trip still wins for distance

Photos: The road to southern California

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