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Restored Pylons Put on Nightly Show at LAX

After a $2.5-million makeover, the towering display is back in service with a more economical system offering 16 million colors.

September 15, 2006|David Pierson | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles International Airport regained some of its luster this week when the 26 glass-and-steel pylons that line Century Boulevard were illuminated with colors at sunset, marking the first time the towering columns worked as they were intended since they were dimmed for repairs six months ago.

Dubbed Los Angeles' "electronic Stonehenge," the pylons were unveiled six years ago in time for the Democratic National Convention. They offered viewers an effervescent glow that could be seen by airline passengers from 3,000 feet.

But by 2004, the complicated lighting system began to malfunction. Some pylons blacked out while others were splotchy. To fix them, electricians had to hang upside-down in harnesses.

Nearby businesses and hotels began complaining that the defective lights were an embarrassment, especially when tourists asked what was wrong.

To fix the problem, the $15-million display received a $2.5-million makeover in the last six months. The system was operating Sunday night when the lights were illuminated red, white and blue in remembrance of 9/11, said Tom Winfrey, a spokesman for Los Angeles World Airports.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Monday October 02, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 51 words Type of Material: Correction
LAX's lighted pylons: A story in the California section Sept. 15 about the lighted pylons at the entrance to Los Angeles International Airport incorrectly said the new system increased the pylons' possible variations from 300 colors to 16 million. The new system increases the color variations from 30,000 to 16 million.

"I think they've become quite popular," Winfrey said. "They've become a theme building to identify Los Angeles."

Workers had to replace the stage lights that were used to illuminate the pylons with a light-emitting-diode system. The new lights increase the pylons' possible variations from 300 colors to 16 million.

The new lights consume 75% less electricity than before, and the airport is expected to save $960,000 in annual maintenance costs.The pylon display consists of 11 translucent, tempered glass cylinders 25 feet to 60 feet high in the median of Century Boulevard and a ring of 15 100-foot-tall pylons at Century and Sepulveda boulevards.

The installation has become a Los Angeles landmark of sorts even though not all critics loved it. Some saw the gateway project -- which includes giant letters spelling "LAX" -- as a rush job for the convention that might be more appropriate in Las Vegas.

But over time, the pylons found their place next to LAX's more famous icon, the flying-saucer-style Theme Building, which is home to Encounter restaurant. That building, at the center of the airport's main loop, was meant to evoke the feeling of futuristic travel and is considered a classic of modern architecture.

The restored pylons are illuminated nightly from dusk to dawn.


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