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Airport terminal breaks waves

The $1.9 billion, 1.3 million-square-foot, Tom Bradley International Terminal addition at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), designed by Fentress Architects, doubled the size of the existing terminal and features a roof with 253,000 square feet of formable 4-mm Alucobond aluminum composite material by 3A Composites USA Inc. in custom LAX Fawn Metallic.

The $1.9 billion, 1.3 million-square-foot, Tom Bradley International Terminal addition at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), designed by Fentress Architects, doubled the size of the existing terminal and features a roof with 253,000 square feet of formable 4-mm Alucobond aluminum composite material by 3A Composites USA Inc. in custom LAX Fawn Metallic.

Curtis W. Fentress, FAIA, RIBA, president and principal in charge of design at Fentress Architects, says the architecture in the airport terminal, dedicated in September 2013, is significant because it represents the majestic quality and contemporary philosophies of Los Angeles. "Its inspired design solution is in response to its setting, the beautiful waves of the Pacific Ocean," he adds.

According to a statement from Los Angeles World Airports, the intent of the Tom Bradley International Terminal design was 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."

Holly Carson, assistant project manager at Fentress Architects, says the firm 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.

The sky can be seen through the glass facing north, Carson says, and the common themes were the ocean, mountains, highways and downtown. "The overall shape evokes waves," Carson says.

Alucobond was also utilized on interior curved soffits. Mike Doucette, project element manager at Bradley West Development, LAWA, says they extended the exterior roof form and materials inside to create interior soffits. "It brings the outside wave form in," he says. "The material forms the edge of the waves when you look up."

Elward Systems Corp. fabricated approximately 10,500 recyclable Alucobond panels for the project with 3-D CAD modeling so the panels could be fabricated flat with pre-cut angles. The panels were then curved on-site during installation.

Travis Gregory, project manager at Elward Systems, says Alucobond's flexibility allowed large radiuses and curves to be formed and the most challenging part was creating the fabrication drawings because the design was complex and featured many angles. "Almost every panel had a unique shape," he says.

Crown Corr Inc. installed the Alucobond panels with the Elward Systems Corp. Rout and Return Dry System.

David Ford, project manager at Crown Corr, says creating the airport terminal's ocean-wave effect required the installation of Alucobond panels, many of which were 25 feet long, on 14 roof areas, each featuring three to four elevations, and on interior soffits. "We had to work with big panels in tight spaces and produce complicated radiuses," he says.

Ford says Elward Systems shipped the panels flat and the framer established the radiuses. "There are no waves at all in the middle of the panels," he says.

Carson says the roof was originally envisioned to be constructed with stainless steel, but Alucobond panels provided several project benefits. Photography by David Ford.

 

Doucette says Alucobond panels met their aesthetic needs and he expects the material to perform well over time. "It helped us create the complex roof shapes and the complex geometry in the wave design," he notes. "It offered us a level of flexibility to achieve our aesthetics."

Tom Bradley International Terminal has 30 foreign air carriers and is designed with 18 new gates, nine of which can accommodate larger aircraft including the double-deck wide-body Airbus A380.

Doucette says they could not fit the Airbus A380 at more than two gates in the old facility; the goal was to provide the highest levels of passenger convenience, amenities and services. "With the prevalence of the A380, we needed a terminal facility that would be competitive with other worldclass facilities," he says. "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."

Design of the new terminal began in 2009, construction started in 2010, and installation began in August 2011 and finished in June 2013. Much of the panel fabrication and installation occurred simultaneously. Tom Bradley International Terminal was constructed with practices that diverted 75 percent of construction waste from local landfills and was submitted for LEED Silver certification.

LAX is the sixth busiest airport in the world and the third busiest in the U.S., and served almost 63.7 million passengers, including 17 million international passengers, in 2012.

Traveler amenities in the new terminal include the Antonio Villaraigosa Pavilion (Great Hall), which has 150,000 square feet with dining, retail shopping, airline lounges, a children's play area and spa.

An Integrated Environmental Media System pays homage to Los Angeles' entertainment industry. Seven architecturally scaled media features display multimedia content celebrating travel and Los Angeles' personality as a creative hub.

Architect: Fentress Architects, Denver

General contractor: Walsh Austin Joint Venture (Walsh Construction, Chicago, and Austin Commercial, Dallas)

Fabricator: Elward Systems Corp., Lakewood, Colo.

Installer: Crown Corr Inc., Gary, Ind.

Metal roof panels: Alucobond by 3A Composites USA Inc., Statesville, N.C., www.alucobondusa.com