June 25, 2013

Photo Essay: LAX's New International Terminal

After all of the air traveling I've done, from when I started to run away from New York in 2008 to when I finally made the commitment, switched coasts and moved to LA, I have to admit, I love hanging out in airports. I plan entire, elaborate meals and coffees around my arrival time. I get manicures and massages during layovers. I indulge in gossip and bridal magazines during flight delays, and I shop all the other wares.

Of course, this is by design. Since the advent of the jet age, proponents of air travel have made it an event - even, at times, a luxury. (This is particularly evident in Eero Saarinen's TWA Flight Center in New York's JFK airport, replete with private lounges and cushy red benches and undulatingly curvaceous service bars.) But private lounges eventually transformed into cookie-cutter airline club rooms, upscale restaurants flipped to mass-marketed chain bars & grills, and most departure gates are now full of screaming, drooling, French fry-munching obese children and grown adults sitting cross-legged on the carpet to charge up their various electronics.

As much as I enjoy lingering around airports, it hasn't been very nice, for a long time.

And now welcome to Los Angeles.

This is LAX, already one of the most beautiful airport arrivals in the country. This is LAX, whose Theme Building is a modernist architectural wonder, no matter how cheesy the Star Trekkian "Encounter" restaurant has become.

This is the new International Terminal of LAX, set to open later this year. And it's exciting.

The Fentress Architects new masterpiece was designed to evoke the shape of a Pacific Ocean wave breaking against the beach, making it unmistakably L.A. This shape is visible not only from the outside, but also the inside of the South Concourse.

But this doesn't feel exactly like today's LA, where what was once new intermingles with what is actually new now.

This feels like a yesteryear Los Angeles, or even New York.

Upon the public preview of the terminal, some parts of it still remain unfinished - empty hallways, empty chairs at empty tables -

...but the structure is there.

The lines, light and shadows are there.

All that's missing are some finishing touches...

...and the passengers.

Like many places, the new LAX terminal is gorgeous when it's empty.

It can breathe.

You can see it.

But soon, these mezzanines and promenades surrounding and intersecting the Villaraigosa Pavilion will be teeming with security officers and jetsetters...

...perhaps too harried to really take in their surroundings...

...distracted only by the presence of satellite locations of some of LA's best-loved restaurants: Border Grill, Umami Burger, 800 Degrees Pizza, The Larder at Tavern, etc.

Unfortunately, whether it's empty or full, you can't stay in an airport. It's merely transitional, transportive. But when you have to go somewhere (after all, no one hangs around once they've arrived), it's nice to get a good send-off.

Watch a time lapse video of the Bradley Terminal renovation here:

Related Posts:
Surfridge (Parts I-III)
TWA Flight Center, JFK (Interior & Exterior)

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