J. Paul Getty modeled the Malibu Villa after the Villa dei Papiri in Herculenium near Pompeii. Only part of the villa was excavated, but from floor plans, architects were able to recreate the dimensions of the ancient Roman villa. Details of floor and wall designs come from several other Greek and Roman edifices.
The Museum interior consists of 29 galleries on two levels, a reading room and two interactive exhibits. Downstairs galleries open off an Atrium with an open skylight over a central pool. Beyond the Atrium, sculptured figures flank a long fountain amid Mediterranean plants in the Inner Peristyle, a courtyard surrounded by a columned porch. The doorway straight ahead under the yellow marble stairs leads to the East Garden.
To the right of the Inner Peristyle, is the Triclinium - a fancy dining room in a 1st century Roman villa. This space is vacant to allow you to appreciate the intricate geometric marble designs on the floor and walls and the grapevine-painted ceiling. The Triclinium opens to the Outer Peristyle and Garden with a reflecting pool running its length. Unlike the Inner Peristyle, there are no galleries behind the long porticos. Latticed openings in the mural covered walls look through to the grounds beyond. The landscaping of the Villa includes over 1000 Mediterranean plants.
From the south end of the Outer Peristyle you can look out over the canyon to the Pacific Ocean. Another great view is from the south terrace on the Museum’s second floor.