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Los Angeles Gets a Preview of the New Tom Bradley International Terminal

By Carren Jao
June 25, 2013
Photo by Jason A. Knowles © Fentress Architects
The new Tom Bradley International Terminal at the Los Angeles International Airport.

Finishing touches remain, but Los Angeles residents and select media got a glimpse last weekend of the glittering new $1.9-billion Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) at the Los Angeles International Airport. Built to improve the passenger experience and accommodate bigger airplanes, the new terminal is a cavernous 1.2-million square, suffused with natural light.

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Outfitted with more than 60 dining and retail options, including many local Los Angeles businesses, plus coveted electrical outlets and USB ports at 47 percent of the seats at the gates, the upgrade is a welcome departure from the existing Tom Bradley Terminal’s dim, depressing, warehouse-like space. The new terminal is the centerpiece of a larger $4.1 billion renovation for the airport. “We set out to put Los Angeles back on the map and this building is going to be a big leap in that direction,” said Curtis Fentress, whose firm Fentress Architects designed the terminal upgrade.

At the center of the new terminal is a light-filled Great Hall with a ceiling that soars to 110 feet. Meant to evoke the rolling waters of the Pacific Ocean, its arching ceiling looks like a series of cresting waves, uninterrupted by any lighting or mechanicals. To execute this, the construction team employed a non-orthogonal moment frame. They snaked mechanical systems through the floor instead of the ceiling, explained Joe Thompson of Walsh Austin Joint Venture, the construction manager for the project. Clerestory windows slicing the top of each “wave” and a wall of multi-story windows bring in daylight. Roof overhangs minimize heat gain.

Seven large LED screens are tastefully incorporated into the interior. As passengers walk past two of the screens, their movements trigger visual and audio effects inspired by travel destinations. A 72-foot LED clock, that wraps around the elevators to the mezzanine, also streams images and graphics.

Three permanent works of public art, including a sculpture by architecture firm Ball-Nogues Studio, will be installed later this year and in 2014, funded by Los Angeles’ Public Percent for Art Program. On track to receive Silver LEED certification, the new terminal recycled or salvaged more than 75 percent of its construction waste. Air-conditioning controls automatically reset temperatures to maximum efficiency. And low-flow plumbing fixtures and LED lights are used throughout. The new terminal is set to open by August, after which the existing terminal’s east side will be demolished.

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