Designers hired for LAX Theme Building

CONTRACT: For $1.1 million, Gin Wong Associates will draw plans to modernize and strengthen the icon. By Art Marroquin STAFF WRITER The Airport Commission approved a $1.1 million contract Monday allowing an architecture firm to...


CONTRACT: For $1.1 million, Gin Wong Associates will draw plans to modernize and strengthen the icon.

By Art Marroquin

STAFF WRITER

The Airport Commission approved a $1.1 million contract Monday allowing an architecture firm to complete designs aimed at strengthening the crumbling space-age Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport.

Los Angeles-based Gin Wong Associates will draw up plans to rebuild the modernistic structure's exterior coating for the upper and lower arches, while also making various seismic upgrades to prepare for an earthquake, according to a report submitted by the city agency that operates LAX.

The total cost for repairing the Theme Building is anticipated to be close to $10 million, which also includes some upgrades to bring the structure into further compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, according to Jim Ritchie, deputy executive director of long-range planning at LAX.

The building opened in 1961 and is protected under the city's historical monument law, meaning that it cannot be significantly altered.

That law poses some challenges in the refurbishment, according to airport officials.

"As we all know, the building is a signature landmark for the airport, but built well before the ADA laws were written," Commissioner Fernando Torres-Gil said, noting that the structure's elevators may be too narrow to comfortably accommodate wheelchairs.

Airport staffers told the board that the last major renovation to the Theme Building was completed in 1999, and the city's historical preservation codes prevented them from widening the elevators. However, the building does have wheelchair ramps and is generally accessible to people with disabilities.

In response, the Airport Commission asked for a report on how the historical preservation protections will adversely affect efforts to bring the building into full compliance with the ADA.

Gin Wong Associates has already been paid $1.5million for overseeing the emergency demolition and hazardous materials abatement of the Theme Building shortly after a half-ton slab of plaster fell from the structure earlier this year. The company was paid an additional $1.5 million for a portion of renovations already made to the Theme Building.

CSA Constructors Inc. is expected to finish removing stucco panels from the upper arches and a lead-based sealant from the steel cores by next month, as part of a separate $1.8 million contract approved earlier this year.

Once that's done, the airport's Encounter Restaurant will open a short time later, but diners will still view scaffolding and construction materials from the windows.

The first sign of trouble at the Theme Building came in late February, when a 1,000-pound chunk of stucco fell from one of the upper arches and crashed into the structure's main platform. That prompted airport engineers to examine the tops of the arches, where they found rust and decay spreading through the web of metal that attaches the arches' stucco skin to their steel cores.

art.marroquin@dailybreeze.com

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