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After repairs, architectural wonder that's a symbol of L.A. is ready for its closeup

July 3, 2010 |  2:34 pm

Sky gazing

The theme of the spidery structure with the soaring arches was the unbridled optimism of the future when it was built 50 years ago in the center of Los Angeles International Airport.

It was called the Theme Building, in fact, as Jet Age passenger terminals arose in a U-shaped cluster around the 135-foot-tall, restaurant-topped building.

Part spaceship, part flying saucer, the unusual-looking circular structure was sometimes mistaken for the LAX control tower. A year after it rose, the futuristic animated show "The Jetsons" premiered.

Over the years, the Theme Building became as much a symbol of Los Angeles as the Hollywood sign.

That was the plan, according to the man who directed the design of the $2.2-million structure through a partnership with three major architectural firms: Pereira & Luckman and Associates, Welton Becket and Associates, and Paul R. Williams.

Architect Gin Wong set out to create a futuristic building that would both reflect its relationship with aviation and stand the test of time.

It did the latter for 47 years. But in 2007 a half-ton chunk of stucco fell from the upper portion of the eastern arch and smashed into pieces when it hit the restaurant roof.

Read the full story here.

-- Bob Pool

Photo: The Theme Building’s observation deck offers a 360-degree view of Los Angeles International Airport. A ceremony marking the completion of repairs and seismic upgrading was held Friday. Credit: Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times