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LAX's revamped international terminal debuts on a smaller scale

Santa Monica's Museum of Flying will display a 24-foot model of the Tom Bradley facility, which has undergone a makeover overseen by noted Denver architect Curtis W. Fentress.

April 02, 2013|By Bob Pool, Los Angeles Times
  • Architect Curtis Fentress is shown with a scale model of his new LAX international terminal at the Museum of Flying at Santa Monica Airport.
Architect Curtis Fentress is shown with a scale model of his new LAX international… (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles…)

Over in one corner is a replica of the Wright Brothers' 1903 Flyer, the world's first piloted powered aircraft. Elsewhere in the former Santa Monica Airport hangar are a 1929 Lockheed Vega and a 1939 Howard DGA-15.

But the newest feature at Santa Monica's Museum of Flying takes aim at the future of airline service — what is coming in the next few months to nearby Los Angeles International Airport, and also what airports everywhere could look like 150 years from now.

A detailed, 24-foot scale model of the $1.5-billion makeover of LAX's Tom Bradley International Terminal will be displayed at the museum through Aug. 25 as part of an exhibition called Now Boarding: Fentress Airports + The Architecture of Flight.

Airport architect Curtis W. Fentress and his Denver-based firm designed the enlarged Bradley International Terminal, which is expected to be open to the public in June for viewing. Once it's in operation in August it will be open only to ticketed passengers.

Fentress, who shot to fame when his Denver International Airport opened in 1995, is known for architectural touches that reflect local geography or culture. Denver's fabric-topped terminals mimic the snow-capped Rockies that form the airport's backdrop. "Some people describe them as tepees — we call them mountains," he said with a laugh.

His new LAX terminal features a roofline that resembles an ocean wave over its 16 new Fentress-designed passenger gates, eight of them large enough to handle fully loaded double-decker Airbus A380s. These plus two retrofitted gates were designed to move 4,000 arriving travelers an hour, with 80 passport control stations to get arriving passengers through the airport in 20 or 25 minutes instead of the 2 1/2 hours it now takes, he said.

The interior will be flooded with natural light scooped up by the large swooping roof waves that peak about 60 to 100 feet high, Fentress said. A large central area called the Great Hall will feature 100,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space managed by Westfield.

The Now Boarding displays also include depictions of other airports Fentress' firm has designed, including the highly acclaimed 2001 Incheon Airport in South Korea. For several years in a row it was rated the world's best airport by Airports Council International.

The exhibit also explores how passenger planes in the future could have wings that fold so they take up less space after they land and how vertical airports could accommodate hovercraft-type vehicles that land in beehive structures in the year 2160. There's also a display of flight attendant uniforms over the years.

Fentress' 24-foot model is made from acrylics, 3-D prints and foam. It was created by six people who worked full-time for four months and was displayed in Denver and Amsterdam before coming to Los Angeles. The model will to travel to Shanghai, Washington, D.C., and Raleigh, N.C. Fentress, the son of tobacco sharecroppers, was born in Greensboro, N.C.

The terminal display is part of the Museum of Flying exhibit because it is too big to be safely shown at the existing Bradley Terminal, said Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, the city's airport agency. A smaller model is also on display at the Flight Path Learning Center and Museum at 6661 W. Imperial Highway.

The displays are informative because the graceful outline of the new Bradley Terminal will be visible to most passengers only through the window of an airplane.

Lindsey said officials are still wrestling with the future redesign of other LAX terminals. But the expanded Bradley Terminal "is setting a tone for design elements we want all the terminals to embrace. That doesn't mean every terminal will have a wave roof. But the qualities of air, light and verticality need to be built into the design guidelines as we move forward," she said.

The 1.5-million-square-foot Bradley Terminal will feature about 5,000 windows, according to Fentress' designers. "I think window cleaner is a wise investment," Lindsey joked.

Daniel J. Ryan, managing director of the nonprofit Museum of Flying, said Now Boarding will be formally launched at a private event Wednesday night and then will be opened to the public. The museum is at 3100 Airport Ave. and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, he said.

bob.pool@latimes.com

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