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Is LAX's Theme Building coming back to life as part of an on-airport hotel?

Christopher Reynolds, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Travel News

LOS ANGELES -- In New York, JFK airport has found someone to transform its curvaceous but long-dead TWA terminal into a hotel. In downtown Los Angeles, Union Station has at last found a brewpub to fill its grand old Harvey House restaurant space after about 50 years.

So when will Los Angeles International Airport resurrect its own iconic, underused, transportation-adjacent architectural wonder?

Maybe soon.

As the airport advances on a major expansion and modernization, including a new people-mover train scheduled to open in 2023, Los Angeles World Airports officials are looking for ways to bring a hotel into the core area that includes the Theme Building.

You know the Theme Building, even if you're not sure what goes on inside. Designed by Pereira & Luckman Architects to symbolize a jet-age future, it looks like a big, white, concrete-and-steel spider. Since 1961, it has loomed over the airport as an icon of Southern California Midcentury Modernism.

Beneath its twin parabolic arches, there's a big, round, glass-walled dining room (now idle) that generations of confused travelers have mistaken for the airport's traffic control tower. Above the restaurant area is an observation deck (also mostly idle).


Airport officials are not suggesting the Theme Building become a hotel. But they're wondering whether it might work as a restaurant or conference center with a hotel next door or nearby. That would be LAX's first on-site lodging.

In a "request for information" that went out on March 8 with a Friday deadline, officials of Los Angeles World Airports asked for ideas from "teams interested in presenting viable options" for adding a hotel and conference center in the middle of LAX. No timeline is specified.

Airport officials remain mum about the feedback so far. But 29 people, including representatives from several construction, engineering and architecture companies signed in on a May 3 site tour.

"The Theme Building is really one of L.A.'s most iconic buildings, probably in some ways the most familiar, because everyone sees it when they're landing," said Linda Dishman, president and chief executive of the Los Angeles Conservancy.


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