Denver Post critic: New LAX terminal is impressive, but perhaps not iconic

Can an airport terminal put a city on the map?

The good news is that Los Angeles is already on the map for a bunch of things. The entertainment industry. The weather. The food. The different cultures. Angelenos are very comfortable in who they are, and we don’t need a new building to make us feel better.

But Ray Mark Rinaldi, the fine arts critic for the Denver Post, is a little underwhelmed by our new Tom Bradley International Terminal, the $1.9 billion behemoth that is the largest public work’s project in L.A.’s history. I wouldn’t necessarily say he doesn’t like the terminal. He simply writes that the building is not likely to change L.A.’s reputation.

LOS ANGELES — If there’s any lesson in the $1.9 billion spent on the new Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX, it’s that big architecture can’t make your city a destination. Not anymore.

You can build yourself a bit of pleasure, beauty even, in that brief moment before a jet takes off or lands, and you can make security less of a hassle on your next trip to Singapore or Sri Lanka, but even a great building won’t get people to fly to you, only through you.


It took a building as large as Bradley to make this clear because there were high hopes it would it be a landmark, and the project, the largest in Los Angeles County history, did everything possible to make that happen.

If you’re wondering why the Denver Post opined about the terminal and what it means for this region, it is because the building’s architect, Curtis Fentress, is based in Denver. Fentress also designed Denver International Airport. Rinaldi writes that Fentress is not a “superstar,” though Rinaldi does compliment the LAX’s terminal’s design.

L.A. let Fentress fly, and his firm developed a scheme with a soaring roofline that repeatedly rises, crest and falls, reflecting the swells of the Pacific Ocean nearby. Inside, it offers the kind of space air passengers long for. The grand hallway, massive with row upon row of check-in counters, is tall with enormous skylights, clerestories and walls of windows that keep it bright and airy. It’s a grand piece of Western construction, sprawling and free, and wide enough to haul around your carry-ons.

Photo credit: Steve McCrank, Los Angeles News Group.

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