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08.06.2012
Flying Higher
LAX introduces major improvements to upgrade passenger experience.
Courtesy AECOM

Flying into LAX from most airports can be a jarring experience. You’re often transported from a sleek and modern environment to a woefully outdated, bulky, and inefficient one.

But the airport is making a push to modernize. Already it’s renovating its Tom Bradley International Terminal, building a new central energy plant and finishing up a bold Tom Bradley satellite terminal. The latest update: a major enhancement of its main roadway spaces, known as its Central Terminal Area (CTA), by AECOM.

The goal of the work, said AECOM architectural design director Carlos Madrid, is to modernize the airport’s tired look and provide a sense of visual unity.

   
 

The outer edge of the airport’s upper roadway will now be articulated with an illuminated, eight-foot-tall glass and steel ribbon that will define the thruway’s edge. The ribbon’s LED lights will change color in coordination with the LEDs embedded into the huge lighted pylons that dominate the airport’s entry.  Madrid calls them a “horizontal adaptation” of the pylons, which were installed in 2000.

The thoroughfare's’s length will be marked with new sculptural, Y-shaped light poles every 60 feet. The poles, built with steel frame and a fiberglass shell, will light the airport's arrival and departure roads and add a touch of sleekness and sophistication.

 
 

At the center of LAX’s horseshoe-shaped automobile pathway, Tom Bradley’s dated tinted glass and metal space frame canopy will be replaced with a series of white, aerodynamic metallic canopies, reminiscent of airplane wings. The extra-light canopies will be perforated, allowing in natural light during the day, and glowing at night thanks to embedded LEDs.

AECOM also had hoped to reskin LAX’s domestic terminals and parking garages and install new landscaping and street furniture, but those plans are on hold until further funds become available. Leaders in the city have been pushing hard for further updates to the airport, which they call a serious strain on business.

The first phase of the project, which will be focused in front of the Tom Bradley terminal, is set for completion next spring. Its final phase, bringing the improvements airport wide, will be done by 2014. A final budget has not been released, according to AECOM.

Sam Lubell