An 'Essential' Midcentury Modern House Lost, Getty Museum Remains Closed in SoCal Fire

  • October 28, 2019 12:03

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Photo taken by Julius Shulman of the Zack House in 1954
© J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute...

Update, Tuesday, 9:45pm: The Getty Center and Getty Villa remain closed this week (through Nov. 1) due to continuing threat from the Getty Fire in Los Angeles during possibly historic high winds. The nearby landmark Eames House also closed.

Curbed LA reports that one known casualty of the Getty Fire is Zack House, the 1950s "essential" midcentury modern residence designed by Craig Ellwood. It is not yet clear if other prime examples of midcentury architecture have been lost in the Crestwood Hills neighborhood.

The Getty Center and Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles closed Monday as a brushfire dubbed the Getty Fire erupted in the early morning hours. The Getty stated on Twitter that both its sites would remain closed on Tuesday.

In a Monday 8am tweet, the museum said the Getty Center and Getty Villa (in nearby Malibu) were safe. "Many are asking about the art - it is protected by state-of-the-art technology," the Getty tweeted. "The safest place for the art and library collections is inside." 

The Getty recently opened the major exhibition "Monet and Modern Beauty" with a number of spectacular loans.


In a 11am update, the Getty tweeted that "600+ personnel are continuing to employ air and ground support, including air tankers, to contain the fire." By late Monday, the fire had consumed over 600 acres north of the Getty and was moving southwest.

Burning above the 405 Freeway at Sepulveda Pass, the Getty Fire recalls the Skirball Fire of two years ago that was named for the nearby Skirball Cultural Center. That fire, in December 2017, temporarily closed both museums, but did not cause damage to the buildings. 

The Getty Center from the air, 2008
Getty Center

Designed over two decades ago by Richard Meier, the Getty Center was built with wildfires in mind. 

Gallery temperature, air quality, and humidity are controlled to safeguard art, and doors are kept shut during the museum's closure. Special water-drenching shades can cover windows.

The concrete building complex is clad with travertine and metal panels and surrounded by cactus and short, water-dense plants, while brush is regularly cleared away from the hillside. A million-gallon water tank is accessible on site and there is a helipad for helicopters carrying water. 

Additional fires are raging around California as of Monday evening. In the northern county of Sonoma, the Kincade fire destroyed parts of he historic Soda Rock Winery, with buildings dating back to 1869, among dozens of other structures and wineries in the Alexander Valley.

Across the state, hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate homes in a multiday series of wildfires. Millions of Californians have lost (or will lose) power in planned blackouts due to high winds elevating fire risk.

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