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Airport Architectural Wonders: the New TBIT

Is it an airport terminal, shopping mall, restaurant row or an interactive entertainment complex? At LAX, it’s all of the above.

The eagerly anticipated day finally arrived for the grand opening of the New Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) at Los Angeles International Airport(LAX), part of a nearly 2 billion dollar improvement project for the airport. This major airport milestone heralds the completion of Phase 1, which broke ground in February 2010 and encompasses the north and south concourses with nine boarding gates that can accommodate larger, new-generation (Group VI) aircraft such as the double-decker AirbusA-380 and the Boeing747-8 Intercontinental. With these major upgrades, LAX is positioned as the premier U.S. West Coast international gateway. When fully completed in 2015, the TBIT terminal will include 19 gates in all.

There was no shortage of excitement for the official opening of the terminal for passenger operations. Grand opening and ribbon-cutting festivities included elected officials, airport and airline representatives, and airport tenants, who all joined Mayors Eric Garcetti, Antonio Villaraigosa, Richard Riordan and James Hahn to hail the new LAX upgrades.

In the new grand 150,000-square-foot Antonio Villaraigosa Pavilion, passengers will be impressed by a first-class level of comfort and convenience with premier dining, upscale retail shopping, airline lounges, a children’s play area, spa and other amenities. A world-class city deserves a world-class airport.

The Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX is the first and last impression of Los Angeles for nine million travelers every year,” said Mayor Garcetti.

The terminal is an architectural icon, inspired by the Pacific Ocean on LAX’s west side, with a flowing roofline that recalls the rhythm of the waves breaking on the beach. It is light, airy, open and spacious, full of natural daylight. Designed by prime architect Fentress Architects, along withHNTBas associated architect, the new TBIT enhancement and modernization project’s goal was to improve the passenger experience from curbside to airside. From everything I have seen so far, this goal has not only been achieved, but surpassed, creating an airport architectural wonder.

The formal fanfare culminated in the on-time arrival of a Singapore AirlinesA-380 aircraft to ‘cut’ a huge ceremonial ribbon with the aircraft’s nose cone as the plane was towed to Gate 148. Passengers, seeing the celebrations, deplaned and proceeded through the expanded and upgraded U.S. Customs and Border Protection federal inspection area that promises to expedite the usually lengthy arrivals process.

TBIT has enjoyed a number of successful milestones during the construction process. In March, the first three aircraft gates were opened for passenger traffic by then Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, who helped to unveil three new gates and the north concourse. Two of those gates accommodate super jumbo jets and use state-of-the-art, laser-based, visual-guidance-docking systems.

HNTB project manager Allen Berentes has worked with LAX for three decades and on the modernization project for 10 years said, “It’s gratifying to see LAX becoming competitive in aesthetics and services with major international airports.”

Working collaboratively with architects, contractors and consultants, this monumental effort has resulted in the completion of Phase 1 of the overall TBIT modernization, which is the crown jewel of the $4.1 billion LAX Capital Investments Program. The accomplishment of this new terminal facility construction solidifies LAX’s leadership position among its airport competition.

As the largest public works project in the history of the City of Los Angeles, economic benefits include the creation of 4,000 construction-related jobs and about 2,000 permanent concession jobs with the start-up of terminal operations. According to Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), every daily round-trip overseas flight on wide-body aircraft at LAX generates $623 million annually and provides 3,120 local jobs.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Boninof District 11 said, “With this grand opening, Los Angeles now has an international terminal that embodies everything that is great about our city.”

Phase II of the project, slated to begin later this year and completed in 2015, includes demolition of gates on the east side of the terminal; new boarding bridges; upgrades to the federal passenger screening area; public art installations; and secured corridors between Terminal 2, TBIT and Terminal 4 so connecting passengers can conveniently transfer between them.

In addition to being a world-class airport terminal, TBIT also boasts first-class dining and retail shopping to enhance the passenger experience. Westfield, as the terminal concessions manager, is committed to delivering only the best for travelers. Passengers will enjoy 360-degree views, inviting store fronts, and local cuisine as they embark on their journeys. For hungry travelers, there will be 31 new culinary choices – ranging from luxury dining, fresh and healthy sit-down, and the popular grab-and-go – all which reflect the culture, trends and diversity of Los Angeles.

The Westfield retail collection, joined by DFS Groupduty-free program, will collectively provide travelers an incredible array of shopping choices – Coach, Fred Segal, Gucci, Michael Kors, Porsche Design and Tumi, just to name drop a few. There is also the Bead Factory, See’s Candy, Sanrio Surprises, and Vanilla Bake Shop, who provided guests with their signature cupcakes for the opening.

“With flight operations now underway, we look forward to introducing passengers to the best local and global brands as we begin the transition to transform LAX into a global gateway beyond travelers’ wildest dreams,” said Peter S. Lowy, co-chief executive officer of the Westfield Group.

One of the most stunning interior design elements of the terminal is the cutting-edge Environmental Media Systems – mammoth displays including the immense Time Tower and Bon Voyage Wall – which are part of the seven iconic architecturally scaled media features specifically designed to enhance every traveler’s experience visually and emotionally.

Definitely a “wow factor,” the Integrated Media System, directed by MRA Internationaland designed by Sardi Design, features curated multi-media content by Moment Factoryand brand content by Digital Kitchen. Warning to all travelers – make sure you don’t miss your flight because you are mesmerized by the visual displays throughout the terminal.

Now at new TBIT, passengers experience a first-class level of comfort and convenience inside an architectural masterpiece with premier dining choices, Rodeo-drive style shopping, entertaining and surprising media features, and a host of other unique passenger amenities that will please even the most discriminating travelers.

I highly recommend that you arrive early and make the new TBIT terminal the very first stop on your journey – it is definitely the gateway to the world.

For construction enthusiasts, see the time lapse here: New LAX terminal built in 4-minute timelapse (VIDEO)