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Terrific Terminal

Ma Specialfeaturemetalroofing  Jul15 4

Ocean wave roof design heightens vibrant airport spirit


Photo: Jason A. Knowles ©Fentress Architects

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is the sixth busiest airport in the world and the third busiest in the United States serving nearly 63.7 million passengers-including 17 million international passengers-in 2012. Visitors are drawn to Los Angeles to experience everything from the area's temperate coastal climate and beaches, to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood moviemaking.

Those themes are readily apparent in the design of the $1.9 billion Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) at LAX, which was dedicated in September 2013. The new 1.2 million-square-foot terminal addition features a dynamic design by Denver-based Fentress Architects, which had the responsibility of dramatically improving the passenger experience in a way that would capture the vibrant spirit of Los Angeles.

The new terminal's design is inspired by the Pacific Ocean on LAX's west side, with a flowing roofline that recalls the rhythm of waves breaking on the beach. An open and spacious 110-foot-tall Great Hall suffused with natural daylight acknowledges Southern California's temperate climate, while its aluminum roof arches over the column-free structure. This creates a single cohesive architectural theme that unifies the entire terminal inside and out.


Photo: Jason A. Knowles ©Fentress Architects

The terminal's uniquely formed roof was created with 253,000 square feet of formable 4-mm Alucobond aluminum composite material (ACM) from 3A Composites USA Inc., Statesville, N.C., in custom LAX Fawn Metallic. "Alucobond aluminum composite material offered the perfect combination of rigidity, formability, light weight and weather resistance to create the ocean-wave roof profile," says Ben Branham, architectural marketing manager, 3A Composites USA. "Architects can rely on Alucobond to help bring their imaginative designs to life, including creating these types of large radiuses and curves."

"What makes the architecture in the Tom Bradley International Terminal so significant is that it represents the majestic quality and contemporary philosophies of Los Angeles," says Curtis W. Fentress, FAIA, RIBA, president and principal in charge of design, Fentress Architects. "Its inspired design solution is in response to its setting, the beautiful waves of the Pacific Ocean."

Fentress Architects, which was awarded the design contract for the terminal in May 2008, created the design following a series of visioning meetings with planners, community members, stakeholders and the traveling public to determine the images that best exemplify the Los Angeles metropolitan area, according to Holly Carson, assistant project manager, Fentress Architects. Among the common themes were the ocean, mountains, highways and downtown, she says.

"The overall shape evokes waves," Carson adds. "Everyone liked the roof design. It offers an amazing panoramic view. When you look to the north, you can see the sky through the glass." Looking up also provides a view of the Alucobond, which was utilized on interior curved soffits.


Photo: Jason A. Knowles ©Fentress Architects

"We extended the exterior roof form and materials inside to create interior soffits," says Mike Doucette, project element manager, Bradley West Development, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA). "It brings the outside wave form in. The material forms the edge of the waves when you look up."

While visually stunning, the design of the new terminal also had to meet the airport's practical need to accommodate larger jetliners such as the new-generation, double-deck, wide-body Airbus A380, which can seat up to 800 passengers. "With the prevalence of the A380, we needed a terminal facility that would be competitive with other world-class facilities," says Doucette. "LAX is the gateway to the West Coast. We needed an international terminal that was more representative of this city and LAX's high-profile market. We could not fit the A380 at more than two gates in the old facility, and the goal was to provide the highest levels of passenger convenience, amenities and services." The project's general contractors were Walsh Austin Joint Venture, consisting of Walsh Construction, Chicago, and Austin Commercial, Dallas. The metal fabricator was Elward Systems Corp., Lakewood, Colo., and the metal installer was Crown Corr Inc., Gary, Ind.

The TBIT hosts 30 foreign air carriers and is designed with 18 gates. Nine of these can accommodate the Airbus A380. The terminal's 1.3 million square feet doubles the size of the existing Tom Bradley International Terminal. The addition was completed over 38 months and while under construction, the terminal remained fully operational.


Photo: Jason A. Knowles ©Fentress Architects

In addition to the roof, Los Angeles-based CRL-U.S. Aluminum designed, engineered, fabricated and delivered an expansive 2,500-squarefoot elevated secure corridor for the terminal. The monumental glass structure features 13/16-inch, ultra-clear laminated tempered glass mounted in embedded CRL L21 Series Base Shoe Channel and secured with the patented CRL TAPER-LOC Dry Glaze Taper System and architecturally exposed structural steel support framing. The top of the corridor is left open, encapsulated with 175,000 total feet of stainless steel tension cables to provide added security and maximum natural light.

The 2015 Metal Architecture Design Award judges were so impressed with this terminal they called it a "massive project," one in which "the form of the roof is very striking and completely suited for metal to wrap it, and its silhouette is a captivating one." In spite of the terminal's size, they were also impressed with its "subtle detailing and the way its form works to make it soar."

Sidebar: LAX Tom Bradley International Terminal, Los Angeles

Completed: September 2013
Total square footage: 1.2 million square feet
Building owner: Los Angeles World Airports, a proprietary department of the City of Los Angeles
Architect: Fentress Architects, Denver,
General contractors: Walsh Austin Joint Venture consisting of Walsh Construction, Chicago,, and Austin Commercial, Dallas,
Metal fabricator: Elward Systems Corp., Lakewood, Colo.,
Metal installer: Crown Corr Inc., Gary, Ind.,
Glass corridor designer, supplier and fabricator: CRL-U.S. Aluminum, Los Angeles,
Aluminum composite material: Alucobond by 3A Composites USA Inc., Statesville, N.C.,