LAX’s 1960s Central Utilities Plant is coming down and its new Central Utilities Plant is going up.
Structural design and engineering company ARUP, along with architects Gruen Associates won the commission for a design that brings all utilities to ground level by putting cooling towers on the ground (as opposed to on the airport roof) and eliminating the need for a basement. The new plant, which will help support the airport’s more than $1 billion expansion plans, will stand center stage near the LAX control tower and its iconic Jet Age-style Theme Building. According to Gruen’s Craig Biggi, the plant’s taut, curving exterior stainless steel skin, inspired by the fluid physics of flight, will unify the project’s maintenance building and thermal energy storage tanks. At night colored LED lighting will project animated flickers, a not-so-subtle allusion to the water used for thermal energy storage.
“We are not trying to disguise the fact that the new structures are a central plant,” said Arup’s Steve Done. “We are merely trying to achieve an aesthetic that works in the central terminal context.”
The plant will provide hot and chilled water to Tom Bradley International Terminal in August 2012 and will fully replace the old plant in 2013.