The illuminated exterior of the Theme Building at night
|Location||201 World Way, Westchester, Los Angeles, California|
|Architect||Pereira and Luckman|
|Architectural style(s)||Mid-Century modern, Googie|
|Governing body||Los Angeles World Airports|
|Designated||December 18, 1993|
The Theme Building is an iconic landmark structure at the Los Angeles International Airport within the Westchester neighborhood of the city of Los Angeles. It opened in 1961, and is an example of the Mid-Century modern influenced design school known as "Googie" or "Populuxe."
The distinctive white building resembles a flying saucer that has landed on its four legs. It was designed by a team of architects and engineers headed by William Pereira and Charles Luckman, that also included Paul Williams and Welton Becket. The initial design of the building was created by James Langenheim, of Pereira & Luckman.
The Los Angeles City Council designated the building a cultural and historical monument (no.570) in 1993. A $4 million renovation, with retro-futuristic interior and electric lighting designed by Walt Disney Imagineering, was completed before the Encounter Restaurant opened there in 1997. Visitors are able to take an elevator up to the Observation Level of the "Theme Building", located on the roof of the Encounter Restaurant. It has a 360-degree view of the arriving and departing planes. After the September 11 attacks, the Observation Level was closed for security reasons. Following a $12.3 million restoration of the building completed in 2010, the observation level re-opened to the public on weekends starting July 10. Additionally, on September 9th, 2003, a permanent memorial honoring those who perished in the attacks of September 11th was opened on the grounds of the Theme Building. 
The original design for the airport created by Pereira & Luckman in 1959 had all the terminal buildings and parking structures connected to a huge glass dome, which would serve as a central hub for traffic circulation. The plan was eventually scaled down considerably and the terminals were constructed elsewhere on the property. The Theme Building was subsequently built to mark the spot intended for the dome structure, as a reminder of the original plan. Initially, the restaurant on top rotated slowly giving the visitors a 360-degree dining experience, however, it is now stationary.
The appearance of the building as a single homogenous structure is a cleverly constructed illusion. The building's two crossed arches actually consist of four steel-reinforced concrete legs that extend approximately 15' above the ground, and a hollow, stucco-covered steel truss constituting the remaining lower arches and entire upper arches. To avoid changing the appearance of the structure with overt reinforcement, the Theme Building was retrofitted with a tuned mass damper to counteract earthquake movements.
The Encounter Restaurant was closed in March 2007 for repairs after a half-ton piece of the stucco skin on the upper arches crashed onto the roof of the restaurant, and reopened on November 12, 2007. Delaware North Companies Travel Hospitality Services operates the restaurant. It is in a pre-security area of the airport.
- "Historic - Cultural Monuments (HCM) Listing: City Declared Monuments". The City Project Website (The City Project). 2007-09-07. Retrieved 2011-06-15.
- "The "Theme Building," Los Angeles International Airport". University of Southern California. Retrieved 2008-11-18.
- Moffat, Susan (1992-12-19). "Landing a Landmark: LAX Monument to '60s Optimism Granted Historical Status". Los Angeles Times (Tribune Company). Retrieved 2010-04-18.
- Kreuzer, Nikki "Offbeat L.A.: Sexy Space Age – The Theme Building at LAX", The Los Angeles Beat, May 30, 2013.
- "Iconic LAX Theme Building ready for its close-up". KPCC. July 2, 1010. Retrieved July 2, 1010.
- "Art Program – LAX 9/11 Memorial". lawa.org. Retrieved April 7, 2013.
- "The Unlikely History of Pereira’s Theme Building". February 8, 2013. Retrieved March 10, 2013.
- Steinhauer, Jennifer (2010-04-17). "In Los Angeles, the Saucer Is Ready to Land Again". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-17.
- Marroquin, Art (2007-11-11). "Spruced-up Encounter Restaurant to reopen Monday at LAX". Los Angeles Daily News. Retrieved 2007-11-11.
- Media related to Theme Building at Wikimedia Commons
- Theme Building - via USC.
- Encounter Restaurant website
- Theme Building via Emporis