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handrails, guardrails, architect on demand, advice without strings

Architect Richard Meier says: “If you’re ever seriously depressed, just get out of bed and go to the Getty.” Depressed or not, it’s a marvelous place to soak in beauty as it is expressed in every single detail, down to handrails and guardrails.

Especially understated handrails and guardrails. Designed for guidance and support and intended to be held by a human hand, they are conduits, a way to touch and marvel at the architecture. Playing the game of opacity and transparency, they are much more than something to hold on to in the process of using steps or a ramp. As such, they set the tone and offer clarity to the visitors.

I am using the terms handrail and guardrail interchangeably, but they are different. A handrail is a handhold on a platform, walkway, stairway, or stepladder. It helps with stability. A guardrail, on the other hand, is a structure that prevents a person from falling off a platform, walkway or landing.

handrails, guardrails

Today I am at the Getty in the late afternoon moving through outdoor spaces arranged on different levels to explore various conditions or thoughtful variations on the theme. As the golden light of the setting sun washes across the buildings framing magnificent views, I am marveling at the architectural metalwork.

These handrails and guardrails, with joints so crisp and pure, represent the whole building

Their immaculate detailing echoes everything else at the Getty. They help with stability while going way beyond just solving the problem. They suggest a gradual movement, referencing both interior and exterior spaces. They participate in creating a great experience by relating to the human scale. Regardless of stark geometry, they are pleasant to the touch.

handrails, guardrails

Fabricated by skilled welders, the guardrails and the handrails of the Getty demonstrate Meier’s “maniacal concentration” on how every single thing is made. That’s paying attention to details, wouldn’t you say? Do you feel the same way? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please email them to me here or leave a comment below.


  • Mia Kazovsky
    September 15, 2016

    What a beautiful medley of handrails and guardrails! It is amazing that you could find such an inspiring variety in one space. I think that Richard Meier was right.

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