2001 Annual Design Review Environments Best of Category

lax gateway

For many travelers, crossing from international airspace onto terra firma is an emotionally momentous occasion-but one that’s marked by little more than the ding of a “fasten seatbelts” sign. “Most airports don’t address the notion of travel as passage through a portal, nor is there anything honorific upon arrival,” Glassman observed.

Hence, jurors were dazzled by the lax Gateway, which rightly transforms passage into pageantry with a monumental landmark integrating architecture, graphics, landscape design and orchestral lighting. Towering 120-foot columns bisect the l.a. skyline, forming a mythical ring at the mouth of the terminals-a shape that Glassman interpreted as a “sundial of sorts.” Kindred pylons of descending heights stud the road leading up to the airport, metaphorically simulating the linear perspective of take-offs and landings. “The progression and scale give you the experience of a prolonged triumphal arch,” Glassman added.

Paying homage to local culture, the computerized monoliths don a prismatic spectacle of tinted lights after dusk-“Hollywood colors,” which Dine characterized as “contextually perfect.” On a more pragmatic level, the same pylons provide a wayfinding system for confused drivers navigating the intestinal intersection of Sepulveda and Century boulevards.

Describe the evolution of the “gateway” concept from literal to metaphorical.
Clifford Selbert and Robin Perkins: We began by understanding the ingress and egress experience. As visitors and residents enter the airport, there’s a major transition point where the highway system does some visual gymnastics, making the area incredibly confusing to people. This area needed some kind of order to it-a repeating, tall, vertical element that would attract attention and act as a guide. At the same time, we asked ourselves what embodies l.a. and the United States (since the airport serves as a gateway to both). We kept coming back to the idea of “unity and diversity.” The idea of a rainbow of changing colors became part of our inspiration.

How did you decide on vertical columns as the marquis form?
Los Angeles means City of Angels, but the idea of angels and airports wasn’t something we wanted to illustrate in a literal way. So we began thinking about the idea of the halo, which is a circle. We also wanted to develop something timeless and not trendy. A column is the most timeless architectural form that exists.

Airports are teeming with movement. How did you parlay that feeling into the design?
The idea of planes taking off and landing became part of our concept. We thought that the vertical elements we were programming could start off small and grow larger as people got closer to the airport, to simulate what happens when a plane takes off. When people are leaving the airport along Century Boulevard, they would have the opposite experience: to simulate what happens when a plane is descending.

client/company: company Los Angeles World Airports, Los Angeles: Lydia Kennard
consultant design: Selbert Perkins Design, Santa Monica, Calif.: Clifford Selbert, Robin Perkins, principals/creative directors/art directors; Nick Groh, design director; Clint Woesner, designer
hardware/ software: Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop

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