Project architect for Getty Center speaks at library: Jeff Turner’s dream career

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The Getty Center

Idyllwild resident Jeffrey Turner is modest and taciturn. He also is extraordinarily accomplished in his field of architecture and design. “You can build anything you can dream,” said Turner. “That’s what I like about architecture — the fantasy.”

Turner will talk at the Idyllwild Library about his dream career and particularly his experience as project architect for the Getty Center in Los Angeles. His talk, “The Getty Center,” takes place at 4 p.m. Monday, May 1, in the Idyllwild Library Community Room.

Because of the huge fortune J. Paul Getty allocated to the Getty Museum in Malibu and the Getty Center in Los Angeles, the money available for design, construction, operation and collection of art for the 110-acre hilltop Getty Center campus is unparalleled.

Getty Center trustees have the heady responsibility of spending $180 million annually on artistic endeavors, including augmenting the existing art collection, as well as funding educational and outreach endeavors.

The Getty Center, 14 years in the making and a $1.3 billion project, sits on a hilltop campus with more than 2 million square feet of space and facilities in eight buildings and gardens.  Designed by architect Richard Meier, the Getty Center opened in 1997. Turner joined as project architect in 1992 and was there until the grand opening on Dec. 16, 1997.

“The Getty was a design challenge from the beginning,” said Turner. “It straddles two faults and required massive footings. Dirt could not be removed from the building site because of the Conditional Use Permit. Also, neighboring residents did not want the buildings to be white because it would make them stick out.” The travertine marble eventually used to clad the buildings was an off-white color to assuage neighbors’ concerns.

Turner will talk about these design and construction challenges as well as the massive security devices and fire prevention installations that had to be undertaken because of the value of the art housed in the center. “The security room underneath the center is like a small Fort Knox,” said Turner. Installating the security and fire-prevention equipment was held until the last possible moment in order to obtain the latest and best equipment available.

Educated at Boston Architectural Center in Massachusetts, with more study at Harvard Graduate School of Design, Turner has worked continuously on prestigious projects — including the Horton Plaza in San Diego, the downtown Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel update, the Sony Music Center, the Columbia Records building, a new city in India and a hospital in Saudi Arabia.

Although he came to Idyllwild to retire, Turner is currently working as architect on two new homes and three additions.

Turner’s talk, presented by the Friends of the Idyllwild Library, is open to the public and there is no charge for admission.

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