The LAX That Never Was

There’s a phenomenal exhibit currently on display at the Architecture+Design museum in Los Angeles which documents many of the countless projects proposed for construction in Southern California but never built. It’s tragic that the A+D museum space is so small, because the size (and weight) of the exhibit catalog clearly went far beyond the physical restrictions of their cozy spot across the street from LACMA.

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Ooooh, pretty.

Luckily for this #avgeek, one of the projects they squeezed into the exhibit was one of the early concepts for Los Angeles International Airport: A dramatic octopus-like terminal designed by Pereira & Luckman that featured a giant glass central atrium with gate-lined “tentacles” branching out in every direction:

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Original LAX Scheme, Courtesy LAX Flight Path Learning Center

Interestingly, the concept included several more runways than LAX’s current configuration of 2 East-West lanes on either side of the terminal cluster. But an additional four North-South runways probably wouldn’t have gotten much use, given the area’s weather patterns. And though the presented concept never took off (mainly due to pressure from airlines that each wanted their own specific terminals), the design ended up inspiring the design of LAX’s iconic Theme Building which currently sits in the center of the terminal complex.

In a peculiar twist, we’re about to fling open the doors on a redesigned Tom Bradley international terminal that mimics many of the core design ideas of the Octopus That Never Was: There’s a multilevel central hall with lots of glass and some spines leading off that are filled with lovely double-decker gates. Over twenty different airlines live there. And down the road, a pretty awesome sky bridge will stretch out and lead to… That’s right, more gates. So in a way, this particular project did eventually get built, just not quite how we expected it to be. But as lovely as the new Fentress-designed TBIT is, I can’t help but think L.A. Might have made the wrong decision 60 years ago.

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