Drawing inspiration from one of Southern California’s greatest attractions – the Pacific Ocean, the 111,484-square-meter Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is the heart of America’s international travel hub. As the largest public works project in Los Angeles’ history, the architecture team solicited input from dozens of stakeholders, as well as the community in order to meet the client’s needs. A year-long visioning process and public feedback informed the concept—to create a design that was quintessentially Los Angeles. The resulting LEED Gold design recharges the once outdated facility with a convenient and comfortable passenger experience, functional upgrades, and architectural forms that capture the essence of LA’s character.
Fentress Architects’ design approach blends grand scale with the intimacy of human scale, while interweaving the essence of the city into every facet of the project to establish a sense of place. To create a design that echoes its context, the terminal’s rhythmic roofline evokes the Pacific Ocean’s cresting waves. The site-responsive roof form optimizes building performance by reducing solar glare and heat from the ocean from the west and bathes the terminal in natural light from the northeast. Expansive glass curtain walls offer dramatic views of the airfield and the nearby Santa Monica Mountains. Clerestory windows fill the 13,936-square-meter Great Hall with sunlight, connecting travelers to LA’s natural beauty.
Functional upgrades are critical to the project’s success. The design transforms the terminal into the largest port for the next generation aircraft in the United States, with nine gates capable of accommodating super-jumbo jets, such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A380. Triple-deck boarding bridges were specifically developed to accommodate the A380, providing faster, more efficient boarding and deplaning. New centralized ticketing and security screening areas improve wayfinding with a clear sequence that leads directly to the Great Hall while new automated baggage systems expedite the travel experience.
By placing the passenger experience at the heart of the design, the new terminal redefines the traditional airport layout. Arriving passengers, who had been routed through cramped, windowless ‘passenger processor’ corridors, now traverse an elevated walkway bathed in southern California light. Departing passengers experience dynamic retail and vibrant digital art that harmonizes architecture, art, and technology. Vaulted ceilings in the Great Hall create a dramatic sense of arrival, redefining the experience of travel that occurs between security and boarding. Diverse spaces furnished with mid-century style seating and lounges reminiscent of a favorite café or bookstore allow passengers to relax and get comfortable.
An advanced digital landscape seamlessly integrates seven kinetic media installations throughout the terminal and concourses. Interactive features respond to passengers’ movements, creating immersive environments that entertain passengers of all ages. Artistically curated short films celebrate the romance of travel, pay homage to the film industry, and highlight Los Angeles’ unique personality as a world-class creative city, reinforcing passengers’ sense of place and enhancing the airport experience.
Fentress Architects is an international design firm with studios in Denver, Colorado; Los Angeles, California; San Francisco, California; Washington, DC; and Houston, Texas. Founded by Curtis Fentress in 1980, the firm passionately pursues the creation of sustainable and iconic architecture. Fentress Architects is a dynamic learning organization, driven to grow its ability to design, innovate and exceed client expectations. The firm has designed $42 billion of architectural projects worldwide, visited by more than 550 million people each year. Fentress’ global portfolio is renowned for innovative, award-winning design of airports, museums, convention center, laboratories, higher education, civic and government buildings, offices, mixed-use, religious and residential buildings. As a testament to the firm’s solution-driven and creative design approach, projects have been honored with over 550 awards for innovation and excellence.