July 8, 2008
Putting the L.A. In LAX Designs
By Art Marroquin
Los Angeles International Airport is destined for a makeover - one that pays tribute to Southern California's laid-back attitude, sunny weather and wide pristine beaches.
The Board of Airport Commissioners agreed Monday that architectural designs for a new terminal and airline gates at LAX should reflect those qualities and more, including the region's history, culture and diversity.
"I really want when people get off the plane to know that they're in Los Angeles," said Airport Commissioner Valeria Velasco.
"We have so much to offer," she said. "We have the ocean and waves right outside our door practically."
Plans call for building six new gates on the west side of the Tom Bradley International Terminal to accommodate the next generation of large jetliners, including the Airbus A380.
The $1.56 billion project, now dubbed as "Bradley West," is expected to be completed sometime in 2010. About $950 million worth of airport bonds will go up for sale July 23 to help pay for the project.
"This is really the initial stages of trying to get your ideas and thoughts on how we should be putting together Bradley West," said Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of LAX.
Earlier this year, Denver-based Fentress Architects was awarded a $41.5 million, three-year contract to come up with a series of designs for the extended Bradley terminal. Fentress is also expected to come up with designs for the $1.3 billion Midfield Satellite Concourse, which will be equipped with eight to 10 new airline gates.
Among his more notable projects, architect Curtis Fentress designed Denver International Airport, where the roof is adorned with white peaks made of fiberglass that evoke the Rocky Mountains. His firm also designed the new National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va., where a beam extending from the roof is meant to evoke the flag raisers at Iwo Jima.
"Our work is really about taking the best of what is in a place and working that into a project," Fentress said. "We'd like to take your vision and goals and weave that into all the bricks and mortar and steel and glass put together, along with all the functional things that we need to make the airport work better."
Despite the push for an impressive exterior design, airport commission President Alan Rothenberg said he was more concerned with what travelers saw while walking through the new terminals.
"While I want a dramatic exterior, I think I would focus more attention on what it looks like once you get inside and how you feel when you get off the plane," Rothenberg said.
Fentress said he hoped to gather city, business and community leaders for several more meetings before he unveils a series of final designs in October. Airport officials are expected to gather input during a community meeting set for 6 p.m. today at the LAX Flight Path Museum.
In the meantime, airport officials are still trying to figure out how to make the expanded Bradley terminal into a structure that not only gives a good impression, but also serves its purpose in an efficient manner.
For example, airport staffers are recommending that three passenger boarding bridges be built for each of the new airline gates to accommodate the trio of doors on the double-decker Airbus A380 jetliners.
Similar provisions are being made at airports in San Francisco, Paris, Sydney and New York's John F. Kennedy, according to Airbus officials.
For now, airport officials agree that two passenger loading bridges are needed at each gate. A cost analysis will be drawn up later this year to determine whether to build a third bridge at each of the new gates.
"What we have here is a 1960s airport, so whatever you're going to design shouldn't look totally out of sync with what's around it," said Airport Commissioner Walter Zifkin. "I think we have an opportunity here to do something extraordinary."
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