Wednesday, May 20, 2009

LAX Theme Building

Microcosms produced a miniature metal replica of the Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport in the 1990’s. The Chrome-finished souvenir building measures about 5" round and about 2" high. The real Theme Building opened in 1961 and is an example of the Mid-Century modern influenced design school known as "Googie" or "Populuxe." The striking white building resembles a flying saucer that has landed on its four legs. It was designed by a team of architects and engineers headed by William Pereira and Charles Luckman, that also included Paul Williams and Welton Becket. The initial design of the building was created by James Langenheim, of the Pereira-Luckman firm. The restaurant was once a revolving restaurant which provided a rotating view of the urban area of the LAX airport and is suspended beneath two intersecting arches that form the legs. Like most of the few revolving restaurants built in the early 1960s, the huge cost of maintaining the revolving machinery forced the conversion to a conventional, stationary venue, so patrons no longer benefit from the once spectacular continuously changing view that could once be seen from the 360° windows of this unique structure. The original design for the airport created by Pereira & Luckman in 1959 had all the terminal buildings and parking structures connected to a huge glass dome, which would serve as a central hub for traffic circulation. The plan was eventually scaled down considerably and the terminals were constructed elsewhere on the property. The Theme Building was subsequently built to mark the spot intended for the dome structure, as a reminder of the original plan. The appearance of the building as a single homogenous structure is a cleverly constructed illusion. The building's two crossed arches actually consist of four steel-reinforced concrete legs that extend only as high as the restaurant, and a hollow, stucco-covered steel truss constituting the upper half.The Los Angeles City Council designated the building a cultural and historical monument in 1992. A $4 million renovation, with retro-futuristic interior and electric lighting designed by Walt Disney Imagineering, was completed before the Encounter Restaurant opened there in 1997. At one time, tourists and passengers were able to take the elevator up to the roof of the Theme Building, but after the September 11 attacks, the rooftop was closed off for security reasons.

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