Variations on a Theme Building: Revealing LAX's Exoskeleton

Mark Mauer

Mark Mauer

Mark Mauer

Mark Mauer

As the airline industry collapses in on itself faster than the top speed of a Concorde, there are still a couple of nonfrustrating things about a visit to LAX. Not the traffic, the prices, the ridiculous security lines or the beaten-down airline employees. Not the arcane rules of packing shampoo, or throwing away your bottled water to repurchase it from a “safe” airport vendor. No, what’s still wonderful about LAX is the unimaginatively named Theme Building, which stands, like the eye of a hurricane, at the airport’s center. It’s oddly quiet there, even during LAX’s busiest hours. At least it is if construction work isn’t in progress. Last February, a 1,000-pound chunk of stucco fell from one of the building’s four legs, prompting the building’s closure. Currently, all of the stucco has been stripped away from the legs as part of the $14 million renovation, and the scaffolding has created an elaborate exoskeleton of 90-degree angles covering the now-skinny, exposed metal limbs. It’s all the more odd, since the structure itself lacks almost any right angles. The Encounter restaurant inside the dome has reopened, and while the gaudy Tomorrowland interior from a 1997 face-lift remains, there’s still no better bar at LAX for you and your visiting guest to relax after what was no doubt a harrowing flight, before forcing them into another nail biter on the 105. For more Theme Building photos, go to

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