The Los Angeles International Airport is the sixth busiest airport in the world. More than 63 million people passed through its terminals last year alone. From a branding perspective, that means 63 million opportunities to interact and impress.
With the unveiling of the new Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT), LAX stands to become a destination in itself. Forget the travel tedium captured in Up in the Air; the ultra-modern terminal has been designed to serve passengers with interactive content and bring some romance back to the travel experience.
A repurposed elevator tower stands a commanding 72-feet high in the terminal and features an array of visuals on an interactive surface that responds to the movements of passers-by. The piece was designed, explains MRA Founder and project lead Mike Rubin, “to become the iconic clock tower that you see in the grand European railroad stations.”
The revitalization of the TBIT – the first since the 1980s – is the centerpiece of the $4.1 billion LAX Capital Improvements Program, considered the city’s biggest ever public works project.
The extra gates (18 in all), additional space (150,000 square foot Great Hall), as well as upgraded customs areas, increased passenger capacity and nods toward sustainability (the building was designed to achieve LEED Silver certification) are intended to modernize the terminal and improve the airport’s reputation for inefficiency (LAX has been voted one of the worst airports in the U.S.).
But it’s the terminal’s new multimedia environment that’s helping to make LAX a model of the 21st Century airport.
MRA International created a first-of-its-kind Integrated Environmental Media System (IEMS) that uses sensor technologies and real-time data to create digitized and interactive architectural elements. It’s a far cry from rows of flat screen monitors playing loops of local news and weather updates.
Sardi Design and Fentress Architects collaborated on the content and building design along with Moment Factory, the new media and entertainment studio behind Madonna’s latest world tour and the Super Bowl XLVI’s halftime show.
The terminal’s newly constructed Great Hall, where passengers will mingle at luxury boutiques and restaurants before heading to their gates, is the site of the seven architectural structures outfitted with the IEMS.
Ten 28-foot columns display ambient scenes of worldwide destinations on LCD monitors that synchronize with departing flights. A 120-foot Story Board suspended from the curved ceiling welcomes passengers into the Great Hall with cinematic shots of the Los Angeles area and other destination cities, which Moment Factory describes as “ambient narrative.”
“It’s really about bringing people together and making a really engaging public space,” explains Moment Factory founder Sakchin Bessette. The goal of the content, he says, is to blend the useful with the beautiful.
“You can just stand there and watch something with someone beside you, and then move on and use the information,” says Bessette.
But it’s not just about creating an enriching experience for weary travelers; MRA has designed the IEMS to function as a revenue stream so that the platform is funded by private, as opposed to public dollars. The firm is calling it “the first sponsorship program at a U.S. airport.”
Moment Factory produced the “foundation content” for the IEMS (unbranded videos, including cinematic shots of destinations) as well as a media platform through which specially created branded content will be displayed once the terminal opens later this year.
But for Bessette, it all comes back to keeping people enamoured with air travel.
“The journey starts at the airport,” he says. “You don’t need to have arrived at the destination to start enjoying the journey and start dreaming.”