The series of 26 colorfully lighted pylons at the Century Boulevard entrance to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) were relit Sunday, September 10th, at 9:01 p.m. to begin the airport’s commemoration of terrorist attacks in 2001.
The timing coincided with the start of “9-11” ceremonies on the U.S. East Coast.
The pylons were programmed red, white and blue, and remained on for 27 hours until midnight Monday, September 11th.
Starting Tuesday, September 12th, the pylons are regularly lit from dusk until 1 a.m. and from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. daily in a variety of colors and sequences designed and programmed by Paul Tzanetopoulos, the lighting artist who created the original lighting schemes.
The pylons, which had become a symbolic gateway to Los Angeles since they were first lit in August 2000, were dark for six months prior to September 10th for refurbishment and technology upgrades performed by construction and maintenance personnel of Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA, the city agency that operates LAX and other city airports).
New technology installed in the refurbished pylons is 70 percent more energy-efficient than the original system and also requires less maintenance and offers a display palette of more than 16 million colors, according to an airport spokesman.
“The LAX Gateway pylons are the most well-known example of public art in Los Angeles, and are visible to airline passengers from 3,000 feet,” said Lydia Kennard, LAWA executive director. “We are proud they will light the way once more to the entrance of one of the world’s premier airports.”
The 1.5-mile lineup of 11 25-to-60-foot-high translucent tempered glass columns along Century Boulevard culminates with a ring of 15 100-foot columns at the intersection of Century and Sepulveda Boulevards.
Together with 32-foot-high “LAX” letters facing eastward toward incoming motorists, the pylons create what the airport says is the world’s largest permanent, public art light installation.
The pylons are oriented skyward and are designed to mimic an aircraft takeoff pattern.
Los Angeles World Airports determined that the original theatrical stage lighting equipment in the pylons had reached the end of its life cycle and required an overhaul.
The original equipment was replaced with new light-emitting-diode (LED) fixtures, which were unavailable in 2000.
Unlike conventional lights, LEDs are described as small devices that convert electrical energy directly into light.
LEDs were originally intended for use as indicator lights, but recent improvements in color and technology have increased their use as sources of complex illumination.
The 2,000 LED fixtures used in the pylons will consume 75 percent less electricity than the previous 736 lamps; will burn for 75,000 to 100,000 hours, compared to only 3,000 hours for the original lights; and will require minimal maintenance by eliminating moving parts, motors, lamps and filters, according to the airport.
The total cost of the upgrades was $2.5 million, including $1.18 million for the LED light fixtures, installation and contracts for programming and sequencing the displays.
Replacing the original theatrical-style lighting equipment with new but similar parts would have cost $4.3 million.
Because the LEDs burn less electricity while providing more vibrant hues, LAWA expects to cut its annual electric bill for the pylons to $18,000, compared to $73,000 with the original system.
Annual maintenance costs for the new, more reliable system are expected to be reduced from $1 million to $20,000 with the older system.