The New LAX

I posted Monday about the new Los Angeles International Airport’s design and expansion of the Tom Bradley International Terminal. This improvement will allow larger aircraft like the A380 and 787 to use the facility with ease, and more importantly improve on my personal ranking as “shittiest major airport in the west.”

This interests me since I’m a former resident of the region, and still fly to LAX often. Although I love planespotting outside the In-and-Out on Sepulveda, this airport itself is dark, chaotic, and disfunctional. While newer buildings like Denver and San Francisco feature grand halls and ample space, LAX truly is a third world experience. Of course there is only so much you can do given the surrounding land and space limitations, and its imperative to keep the airport running during any transition period, but other than the graceful tentacles of the theme building there is nothing iconic or inspiring about LAX – which is unfortunate as its a gateway for millions of diverse southern California residents and visitors from around the world.

So – here is is. Designed by Denver based Fentress Architects, (creator of the Denver “tent”,) it appears we’ll have two large new international concourses on the far west side of the airport. The horseshoe shaped roadway will be extended – appearing to run between the old TBIT building and a new building on the west side. Also a new south runway will be added, but given the land restrictions I have no clue where they’ll put it.

Here’s a description of the new terminal from the Contra Costa Times:

The proposed exterior design celebrates the airport’s proximity to the beach. Curved stainless steel panels give the appearance of waves lapping at the terminal’s rooftop. Large windows and skylights allow natural sunlight to pour into the passenger walkways.

Tall, white parabolic arches – similar to those of the iconic Theme Building – are incorporated into a two-level bridge connecting the Bradley terminal to the new midfield terminal. Travelers can opt to ride a train on the bridge’s lower level, or stroll along an automated pedestrian walkway on the upper level. Viewing lounges at each end of the bridge provide views of downtown, the Santa Monica Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

Here’s my question though: There are two sets of parallel runways: One north and one south, on either side of the entire complex. Frequently aircraft will land on the north runways, (24 Left or 24 Right,) then taxi behind the international terminal and meander down to their gate on the south side. Will these aircraft be required to taxi around these two new concourses? Will they be going UNDER the bridge? (As it appears one is.) Or will this simply not be an issue?

It is a wonderful sounding design, but one negative is that only international travelers will see the bulk of these new elements. Of course time will tell if the full spectrum will come to fruition. Completion date is 2013 – and in “big project” years that’s cutting it might close.

L.A. Times article and photo. Pat Morrison’s opinion column has a more cynical view. The Daily News features this photo of the bridge connection the remodeled TBIT to the new gates.

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