The Azalea Maze

Discover the beautiful piece of contemporary art, the Azalea maze by Robert Irwin located at the Getty Center, Los Angeles, California.

| September 2018

  • azalea
    Robert Irwin’s maze of azaleas floats in the middle of a lake, unwalkable and horticulturally illogical.
    Photo by GettyImages/photoncatcher
  • living-maze
    The maze can be found in the Central Garden.
    Illustrations by Thibaud Hérem.
  • map
    Azalea Maze, Getty Center, Brentwood, Los Angeles, USA
    Illustrations by Thibaud Hérem
  • living-mazes
    “The Maze” provides an incredible look into the living mazes from around the world.
    Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing

  • azalea
  • living-maze
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  • living-mazes

In The Maze (Laurence King, 2018) by Angus Hyland and Kendra Wilson, readers will find an abundance of mazes located in different parts of the world. Some of the mazes have been around for centuries, while others are newer additions to the places they are housed. For those looking to discover beautiful living art, visiting a unique maze is a wonderful way to do so.

Part of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles is housed in a Roman villa in Malibu, a perfect replica containing Roman, Greek and Etruscan art. The attention to detail is astonishing: even the plants in the garden are historically correct. However, it is the other part of the museum’s collection, in the $1-billion Getty Center in the hills of Los Angeles, that has a labyrinth in its Central Garden. And it’s not a pastiche, but rather part of a permanent installation by the Californian artist Robert Irwin (b. 1928). The museum ranks the Central Garden (with the maze at its heart) as ‘one of its most significant pieces of contemporary art’. To prove that, the garden is overseen by the museum’s Associate Director for Collections.

When inspecting the Central Garden, horticulturally minded visitors have been known to criticize: the azaleas on the maze should not be grown in full sun, for example, and the intensely coloured plantings lack subtlety. As for Irwin, they say, he’s a member of a 1960s art group, the Light and Space Movement – he isn’t even a gardener. That is the genius of the place: the maze (which is unwalkable) floats on its own, irrespective of what has gone before. The rules we seem to require when examining gardens do not apply to it. Irwin’s work is about perception, and the garden is intended to be wholly immersive in terms of colour, scent, light and movement.

Engraved in stone halfway down the canyon garden are his words ‘Always changing, never twice the same’. Flowers come and go. The azaleas, almost perversely, flower for only two weeks out of 52. This refreshingly iconoclastic approach is reminiscent of Christopher Lloyd’s legacy at Great Dixter in southern England; the garden has great transformative potential, and no detail is too trivial if it heightens the sensory experience of the viewer. To this end, the mulch in the Central Garden was designed by Irwin, to be an especially beautiful dark shade of brown.




Reprinted with Permission from The Maze and Published by Laurence King.