Officials have temporarily closed the Encounter Restaurant at the top of the landmark Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) while renovations and repairs are performed on the upper arches of the space-age building.

Airport officials scheduled the renovation project after a half-ton piece of the stucco “skin” broke off the underside of the east upper arch of the building and fell onto the platform near the roof of the restaurant more than two weeks ago.

The incident caused no injuries or major damage but prompted airport workers to immediately install protective scaffolding over the entrances to the Theme Building while visual inspection from the Encounter’s rooftop was conducted, airport officials said.

Engineers were able to inspect the upper arches more closely with the use of a 100-foot-tall crane and discovered that there was water seepage into the stucco on the top side of the arches, airport officials said.

After engineers and inspectors determined that there was a possibility for other stucco pieces to fall onto the restaurant’s roof, airport officials said they ordered Encounter management to close the restaurant Wednesday, March 7th, as a safety precaution.

The renovation of the upper arches, which will include repair of the stucco skin, is expected to take about six months, officials said.

The Encounter Restaurant, which offers 360-degree views of the airport and originally opened in 1997, is expected to reopen in less than six months, but officials have not set a timeframe.

Ground-level offices, the City Deli cafeteria and the airport’s commissary that provides food to the rest of LAX’s concessions will remain open during the renovation project. The Theme Building will also remain illuminated at night during the renovation.

This will be the first renovation of the upper arches since they were erected in the late 1950s. The arches do not provide structural support for the restaurant.

Airport spokesman Tom Winfrey said officials have not yet determined the estimated cost of the project, which is not expected to have an effect on airport flight operations.

The Theme Building that houses the Encounter Restaurant is widely considered one of the most recognizable structures in Los Angeles, with its space-like design and 135-foot-high arches.

By performing renovations to the unique structure, airport officials are showing that “Los Angeles is making an investment in one of its cherished icons,” said Michael Collins, executive vice president of LA Inc., the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“This is an L.A. icon,” Collins said of the Theme Building. “We invest in those things that distinguish L.A. from the rest of the world and that soaring structure does.”

The Theme Building was completed in August 1961 at a cost of $2.2 million and was part of the airport’s $50 million Los Angeles Jet Age Terminal Construction project.

Designated a cultural and historical monument by the Los Angeles City Council in 1992, the Theme Building has appeared in numerous films and television shows.

The last major renovation of the building took six months and was finished in April 1999.

The $3 million project included renovation of the underside of the cross bridge that forms the roof of the Encounter Restaurant, as well as renovation of the bottom of the restaurant with new galvanized steel, stucco and painting.

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