Water Features
at the Getty Villa

Malibu, California USA

by Pam Spindola
Click images to enlarge

 Formal gardens of the Outer Peristyle

Inner Peristyle 

In 1945, oil tycoon and visionary J. Paul Getty purchased a 64 acre (26 hectare) Malibu beach site, prime southern California real estate overlooking the blue Pacific Ocean. He worked with experts to design the museum to house his renowned collection of classical artifacts.

Today this recently renovated property dedicated to the cultures of Greece, Rome, and Etruria consists of a wonderful museum, outdoor theater, restaurant, and educational center. The Getty Villa is modeled after an unearthed Roman country house that was buried in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. This museum is not an authentic reproduction; the site also contains elements from other ancient houses of classical Italy.  

Common to the architecture of that day, the gardens, fountains, and pools were made an integral part of the interior of the property. Ancients used these water features for bathing cooking, drinking, and irrigation. Walking through the villa's various corridors, patios, and observations area, you constantly find water features nearby. 

The Herb Garden displays plants representative of ancient Mediterranean types. Nestled at one end is a delightful little fountain and waterlily pool. Along the pathway a formal pond displays an assortment of waterlilies and other complementary plants.

The fountain in the East Garden is visible from many vantage points of the property. Its large dark blue mosaic façade adorned with theater masks replicates a fountain found in Pompeii. Facing this fountain is a more traditional circular one planted with waterlilies


The most striking pond is located outside the Museum Store. This shallow pond features a floor of black marble and walls of cut stone. The grouping of different water plants creates a dramatic effect. 

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