Arriving at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) should provide a “wow” factor for visitors from around the world and reflect the history, diversity and culture of Los Angeles, local residents told Fentress Architects representatives at a recent “architectural visioning” workshop.

The workshop was held Tuesday, July 8th, at the Flight Path Museum at LAX, on Imperial Highway.

Fentress Architects was recently awarded a contract by the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners for $41.5 million to modernize the terminal, build new gates for the anticipated new, larger aircraft such as the Airbus A380 and design the Midfield Satellite Concourse and several other projects.

Thomas Walsh of Fentress Architects said the company wants input from residents to “define what Los Angeles means and how to reflect that concept to residents and around the world.”

Walsh asked for key words from the audience that reflect those ideas, which were listed by Gregory Billingham of Fentress Architects on a large easel as each speaker made suggestions. These are to be incorporated into a design framework for the next workshop, to be held in one month, with a final goal of completion by October, said Walsh.

The larger aircraft are scheduled to come to LAX later this year, with new gates needed on the west side, and they will be added by January 2012, Walsh said.

Among comments were, “Tom Bradley International Terminal should reflect and show appreciation for the diversity of the city, since we have everybody here from every country and every religion.”

“When you land at LAX you don’t even know that you’re near the beach or the mountains,” said one resident.

Suggestions included a taller building to allow visitors to see the ocean and the mountains and west-facing gates to enjoy the ocean breezes and the warmer Santa Ana winds.

A taller building would also seem more spacious and light, with less crowding, to mitigate the darkness and slow progress through customs, said one resident.

Mosaics and murals, and homage to Native American Indians, the Tuskegee Airmen, Little Tokyo, Chinatown and Olvera Street were also defined as being important in describing Los Angeles.

One speaker said, “Los Angeles is like 17 different suburbs looking for a city.”

All processes at airports are alike — ticketing, security, the departure/arrival sequence — but it is the spatial development, the interaction of form and function in moving passengers in and out that is the key, said Walsh.

Other design ideas included acknowledging the aircraft industry that has been so important to Los Angeles; a Metro Green Line connection to the airport; a roof garden and restaurant; local vendors such as at Universal City Walk; cascading fountains; quiet discussion zones; holographic images on walls; a Metro transport to points of interest and fragrant orange trees, among others.

Denny Schneider, president of the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion (ARSAC) said, “I appreciate that LAWA [Los Angeles World Airports, the city airport agency] has asked us to address the architectural aesthetics of LAX. I am, however, much more concerned about where LAWA intends to place the north runways and the associated costs in both dollars and impacts on the surrounding communities.

“LAX must be safe, secure and passenger-convenient, an airport that all Angelenos can be proud of. The technical improvements that we have been pounding for, over the past few years, along with proper, adequate tower staffing are also a must.

“If they want to fix any of the airfield issues, the first focus should be on the substandard taxiways,” Schneider said.

Walsh began the presentation with a video about other Fentress Architects projects, including Denver International Airport, the National Museum of the US Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia, Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea and the Seattle-Tacoma International central terminal in Washington.

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