It’s been almost 25 years since Los Angeles’ LAX airport received a major addition, but that may be changing. Denver-based Fentress Architects unveiled models and renderings on November 17 of a new terminal and other extensive updates to the cramped, aging airport. The last major new building at LAX, the Tom Bradley International Terminal, was completed in time for the 1984 Summer Olympics.
The newest element of the plan is the Midfield Concourse, located behind the Bradley, for domestic and international flights. According to the RFP issued earlier this year, the structure would measure between 500,000 and 600,000 square feet to accommodate eight to nine Airbus A-380 jumbo jets. The terminal’s rhythmic, sloping glass and steel roofs, said Fentress, are meant to evoke the breaking waves of the nearby ocean. The building’s flat-seam stainless steel canopy would stretch over several column-free structures. A new two-level arched bridge would cross a new taxiway, connecting passengers to the concourse from the Bradley Terminal. The bridge’s design refers to the airport’s 1961 Theme Building, with its iconic parabolic arches.
Fentress’ other plans for the airport include major changes to the Bradley Terminal, which is already undergoing a $723 million renovation by Leo A Daly Architects (now about 65 percent completed, according to LAX spokesperson Tom Winfrey). These would include larger curbside canopies for check-in; a high-ceilinged “great hall” containing concessions and retail; a “bumped out” new dining area and window wall on the west side of the terminal; glassy new north and south concourses; and a huge passenger processing facility across from the Bradley Terminal with a roofline that would echo that of the new Midfield Concourse, where a parking structure is currently located.
Airport officials said they expect a completion date of 2013. The Tom Bradley additions would cost about $2 billion, said Gina Marie Lindsey, director of Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), and the total cost of the project has been estimated at $5 to $6 billion. Lindsey also told The Los Angeles Times that the airport will finance the modernization with higher landing fees, bonds, revenue from airport concessions, and seed money from a portion of $850 million in bonds sold by LAWA earlier this year.
In order to follow the airport's Sustainable Design and Construction Guidelines released last year, the project must “optimize recycled building materials, minimize the amount of energy used in construction, and optimize energy efficiency,” according to the standards. The new designs are consistent with applying for the highest level possible in LEED certification.
Since the Bradley Terminal was completed 25 years ago, several expansion plans for LAX have been proposed and then stalled or scrapped. In 2003, for instance, Mayor James Hahn proposed a $9 billion modernization plan that was later dropped in the wake of neighborhood lawsuits and concern about design and security costs. The current plans still have to complete a rigorous environmental review process before moving forward.
Fentress, which was awarded a $41.5 million, three-year contract earlier this year for the LAX project, has become one of the nation’s most prolific airport architects, having also designed ambitious new airports in Denver, Seattle, San Jose, Sacramento, Raleigh-Durham; Seoul, Korea; and Doha, Qatar.