Theme Building - LAX

(1960)^ - View showing the Theme Building under construction. Credit LAX Photo Archives via The Airport Collection  


Historical Notes

The modern parobolic arches of the Theme Building would dominate the center of the terminal area, with four “legs” rising 135 feet from the ground and 340 feet across the base.  It would contain a restaurant and observation deck, with an employee cafeteria at ground level.




(1960)*** – Aerial view showing LAX under construction with the Theme Building in the foreground and two terminal buildings in the distance.  


Historical Notes

The distinctive white googie "Theme Building", designed by Pereira & Luckman architect Paul Williams and constructed in 1960/1961 by Robert E. McKee Construction Co., resembles a flying saucer that has landed on its four legs.




(1960)^* - Close-up view showing the Theme Building under construction in 1960. Airport Commission president Don Belding waves a flag in the foreground.  


Historical Notes

The Theme Building became an iconic landmark structure at the LAX. It opened in 1961, and is an example of the Mid-Century modern influenced design school known as "Googie" or "Populuxe”.




(1960)^* - View of the new 'Theme Building' as last steel girder is put in place.  


Historical Notes

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.





(ca. 1961)*- Structural steel and scaffolding, Theme Building LAX. Courtesy of LAX Photo Archives, LAX Flight Path Museum  


Historical Notes

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 approximately 15' above the ground, and a hollow, stucco-covered steel truss constituting the remaining lower arches and entire upper arches. To avoid changing the appearance of the structure with overt reinforcement, the Theme Building was retrofitted with a tuned mass damper to counteract earthquake movements.*^





(1961)^*^# - New streetlights being assembled in the foreground as construction continues on the Theme Building. Click HERE to see more in Early Los Angeles Streetlights. Photo by John Woods - LAPL  






(ca. 1961)*** - Maintenance garages and Theme Building LAX  






(ca. 1961)*** - LAX Theme Building. Photo: Julius Shulman / Getty Research Institute  


Hitorical Notes

The distinctive 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 Pereira & Luckman.*^




(1962)* - View of the Theme Building and its parking lot. Note the stylish multi-head streetlights surrounding the building. Click HERE to see more in Early Los Angeles Streetlights. UCLA Library Digital Collections  





(1960s)^ – Postcard view of the Theme Building with Continental 707 taking off in the background. Photo courtesy of Vintage Airlines  



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