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ReLAX at Bradley Terminal
Renovations improve aging eyesore at LA airport, its largest project to date
Color and lighting were among the approaches to improving the experience of the Bradly Terminal, built in 1984.
Courtesy LAX

It may be the world’s fifth busiest international airport, but LAX is arguably the world’s ugliest. But a just-completed $723 million renovation project to the Tom Bradley International Terminal aims to change that. Built in time for the 1984 Olympics, the 23-gate, one-million-square-foot mass of beige concrete and steel was an eyesore from the moment of its unveiling. Its confusing layout, inefficiency, and low lighting have negatively colored many travelers’ first impression of the city.

A new ticketing concourse. (Click to zoom)

Leo A Daly, project architects for the renovation, spent nearly 12 years and almost a billion dollars to add, among other things, a 45,000-square-foot baggage screening area, massive upgrades to the arrival and ticketing lobbies and concourses, four new airport lounges, new furniture, restrooms, accessibility measures, elevators and escalators, better temperature control and ventilation, and a new electrical system. Renovations also included two new gates capable of handling the enormous Airbus A380 aircraft, multimedia installations, and “dynamic color and brighter views,” said Keith Mawson, corporate director of aviation programs for Leo A Daly.

The firm did, however, leave the hideous exterior almost intact, focusing instead on getting LEED certification. The team redid the building’s lighting control system to reduce energy consumption and installed a new, more energy-efficient HVAC system. The architects used local and sustainable building materials and finishes with a requirement of 70 percent recycled content wherever possible, including recycled epoxy flooring, carpet tiles with low VOC adhesive backing, terrazzo floors comprised of 80 percent recycled material, and 70 percent recycled metal ceilings. High-performance, low-e insulated glass is being used in the two new buildings.

A bank of customs windows for the Bradley Terminal.

The project, which is the largest in the history of LAX, came in nearly $18 million less than the $755 million budget, and was funded with a combination of revenue from bonds, airline reimbursements, facility charges, and airport revenues. Travelers will be happy to hear that the upcoming Bradley West Phase will be completed in December 2012, and will feature 18 new gates and a new 100,000-square-foot eating and shopping “piazza” to rival those in other major international airports. We can only hope.

Jake Townsend