Under the Malibu Sun: Alumni Recreate Getty Villa Garden

Under the Malibu Sun: Alumni Recreate Getty Villa Garden
Matthew Randolph, landscape architecture alumnus, at Getty Villa Gardens in Pacific Palisades where he and his wife, Amy Korn, helped restore the Italian gardens.
The garden features Roman-style spaces, complete with sculptures and fountains, that are augmented by kornrandolph selected trees, herbs and flowers.
Amy Korn was instrumental in the design and implementation of the Romanesque gardens and landscaping in Pacific Palisades.

When visitors reach the entrance to the newly reopened Getty Villa museum in Malibu, they can't help but feel as if they are entering an ancient Italian estate, a reaction that is unmistakable  and completely intentional.


“We arranged a matrix of Italian meadow grasses beneath an alley of olive trees, so it feels like an old Italian villa entryway?very simple and organized,” says Matt Randolph, who worked on the renewed gardens and landscaping at the Getty Villa.


Randolph was the construction administrator working with the Getty Villa's landscape architect, Denis Kurutz, when the renovation of the villa was in the early construction stages. Kurutz had designed the gardens when the original villa was built in the 1970s and was asked to renovate the grounds as new construction of the site began eight years ago.


“Denis passed away in 2003, and with the support of his family and the Getty, our studio, kornrandolph, completed the design and installation of his work,” says Randolph.


Randolph's wife, Amy Korn, joined him and together they formed kornrandolph Landscape Architects and picked up where Kurutz left off. Both Randolph and Korn received their bachelor's degrees in landscape architecture from Cal Poly Pomona in 1996.


“We had to make interpretations of Denis's design,” says Randolph. Korn worked to fill in the holes, and “she was able to speak to the level of design that Denis was capable of doing.”


The Getty Villa is the grand, whimsical vision of J. Paul Getty, the late oil magnate, and is modeled after a first-century Roman country house, the Villa dei Papiri, which was buried in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79.


“It was an interesting challenge staying true to a palette of all Mediterranean plants that would have been commonly used in the Roman Era,” says Randolph of the gardens renovation. “There are more than 300 different types of plants used throughout the site.”


Before the villa re-opened to the public earlier this year, the husband and wife team worked with gardeners to not only reinvigorate the original Kurutz Romanesque gardens and landscaping, but they also realized the late designer's plan for a property perimeter of native-California plants.


“We planted milkweed, which is where monarch butterflies lay their eggs, and sure enough, these butterflies are everywhere,” he says.


On this extensive (64 acres) and highly complex site, a grove of olive trees stands atop the 250-seat auditorium. A meadow of grasses and flowers rolls off the top of the new parking structure. And, as Randolph enthusiastically describes, visitors are in for a pleasant surprise as they walk on the path to the museum from the subterranean parking structure.


“It feels as if youre wandering along a hillside in Italy. Overlooking the herb garden, you follow densely foliated trees through which you get small glimpses of the J. Paul Getty Museum. Then you come around the corner and boom?the Roman amphitheater and plaza are in front of you. It's really spectacular.”