As a city’s first point of call for out-of-town and international visitors, an airport is the first real taste of the city and, as with a first impression of a person, there is only one chance to make a first impression.
Add to this the vulnerable state that a lot of passengers are in given long flights and ghastly changeovers and it becomes evident that airports can either be comfortable havens or absolute nightmares depending on the design and amenities.
These issues are compounded when the number of passengers increases. With 61 million passengers travelling through Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) annually, the airport needs to be in top form. Large portions of these travelers are among the world’s richest and most famous people, adding invasive cameras to the mix, underscoring just how excessively the airport is on display.
The key to successful airport architecture – and architecture in general – is cultural context. It is no coincidence that Abu Dhabi’s newly-planned airport is fitted with marbled luxury, or that Singapore Changi Airport is sleek and modern; both the design and features of these spaces represent a cultural reality and ideal.
Thus it was only logical that, when it came time for the airport serving the city of stars to expand, light would be a key feature.
As part of a large-scale development, LAX will undergo a complete redevelopment under the leadership of design practice AECOM in association with Los Angeles World Airports.
The project outline explains that, under the new design, separate terminals throughout the airport area will be connected, culminating at the central terminal area (CTA).
Lighting will play a key role in the aesthetic of this modern building, with integrated systems further including graphics and architecture as a way of illuminating key areas such as the building’s entrance.
These lighting features, in addition to aerodynamic metallic canopies and pavilions, act as identifying features, differentiating both the various parts of LAX and the airport at large from its international counterparts.
On top of this, the airport’s largest terminal – Tom Bradley International – will receive a major extension to cater to growing crowds.
The redevelopment will be an enormous task, but there seems something fitting about LA hosting an airport that emphasises light, both natural and artificial, when welcoming foreign visitors.