LAX story

Justin Wortman and Jon Phillips update us on the role HOK and Arup are playing in the ongoing upgrade of Los Angeles International Airport.

Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) is in the midst of a $30 billion transformation centred around elevating guests’ experiences through efficiency, thoughtful design and unexpected delights.

This comprehensive modernisation is underway in advance of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and the City of LA welcoming guests from across the US and the world to an exciting collection of events, including the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2028.

While these improvements ensure best-in-class offerings for global and national sports spectators, they will also provide incredible guest journeys for generations to come.

To realise its ambitions, LAWA is partnering with architecture, design and engineering firms that share its vision of creating a transformed LAX and positive guest experiences from start to finish.

One collaboration that is yielding important projects and approaches is LAWA’s work with HOK+Arup, a joint venture team comprised of members from each firm’s local studios. Together, LAWA and HOK+Arup are working to reimagine LAX.

Campus optimisation and improvements  

In line with the transformation at LAX, multiple airside shifts at the airport have taken place in recent years. United Airlines moved its facilities to the east end of the airport campus, Delta moved to the north side of the Central Terminal Area with the modernisation of Terminals 2 and 3, Concourse 0 is under development, and the Security Badging Office and Airport Police Facility were relocated to different sections of the airport campus.

Based on these moves, LAWA determined there were opportunities to optimise over 100 acres of LAX property. The HOK+Arup team is working with LAWA to determine how to leverage that property for the future.

The project team completed a multi-disciplinary study of potential improvements across various terminals, landside elements and roadways at LAX. The study aims to help LAWA balance its short and long-term needs at the airport. This supported LAWA in understanding project phasing options for the campus that would help mitigate construction impacts on operations.

One aspect of these campus optimisations focused on commercial redevelopment opportunities. HOK+Arup engaged commercial space planning consultant, Pragma, to develop a concessions performance analysis at LAX, which included market research and a foot traffic analysis at the airport.

Based on this research, HOK+Arup identified opportunities for the commercial programme and increasing non-aeronautical revenues at the airport.

The project team also provided design options for the look and feel of potential commercial spaces, ensuring they would flow with the surrounding terminal area’s interior design.

The team analysed base building systems around these potential concessions spaces to determine if any upgrades were needed, covering everything from sprinkler systems and lighting to HVAC systems. This work will help LAWA provide clarity around concessions lease arrangements in the future.

Passenger journey mapping 

Understanding how passengers move through and interact with an airport can inform design and improve operation decision-making.

To help create a more seamless experience for travellers, HOK+Arup led a passenger journey mapping initiative that analysed how different passengers might interact with airport terminals.

HOK+Arup, working with sub-consultants UNStudio and Faith Group, investigated various passenger ‘personas’ and their possible journeys from Terminal 1 and the Tom Bradley International Terminal.

The study sought to answer critical questions, like how an experienced business traveller might interact with the space, and what considerations should be accounted for when designing for families travelling with children.

The analysis, which included a survey of 367 passenger volunteers, focused on emotional responses, sentiments and perspectives on the various segments of their journeys.

Technological devices called iMotions were affixed to the volunteers to monitor their physical reactions. Data collected included galvanic skin response (indicating activation of sweat glands), heart rate, gaze fixations and saccades (rapid eye movement).

The biometric information collected provided a detailed level of analysis of a given passenger’s response to their environment throughout their journey through the terminals. The personal data collection was complemented by video footage from static cameras, which tracked movement to generate heat maps and trajectory lines.

The team used the results of the analysis and mapping to build typologies of different passenger needs and priorities, helping LAWA further understand and classify passenger journey requirements.

Modernising terminals

Passenger journey mapping is also helping to inform possible modernisations to kerbside spaces, ticketing halls, security processing, domestic arrival spaces and concourses to terminals at LAX.

HOK+Arup are collaborating with LAWA to strategically identify cost-effective interventions that make spaces more welcoming for travellers.

“Our terminal modernisation recommendations are approached through the lens of enhancing the passenger experience,” said Anne Fletcher, AIA, LEED AP, HOK’s principal-in-charge and principal architect on LAWA projects.

“Our work with LAWA aims to streamline the passenger journey, ensuring that guests arrive, move through and depart LAX with ease.”

Recommendations include enhanced wayfinding and signage, improved lighting, refreshed finishes and opportunities to maximise natural light in the terminals. The team also investigated various base building system upgrades, including new lighting and mechanical systems, that would increase energy efficiency at LAX.

Additionally, HOK+Arup helped LAWA explore possibilities relating to the development and management of a digital assets portfolio to showcase relevant content on video boards throughout the airport.

These include screens that update travellers on plane departures and arrivals, security processing times and more.

To aid with this work, the team engaged integrated partner Faith Group to provide a benchmarking study for LAWA. The findings are creating a foundation upon which future decisions on digital asset management will be based.

Fostering diversity and mentoring the next generation

Diversity, equity and inclusion are key to LAWA’s modernisation approach, and HOK+Arup joined forces with the client to ensure DEI is present throughout the team’s work.

“Working at LAWA, HOK+Arup have assembled an impressive group of 56 sub-consultants, acting together as a dynamic team to bring wide-ranging expertise from design, architecture, engineering and planning,” said Benjamin Anstiss, Arup project lead and associate principal based in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

“Through our multi-disciplinary approach to collaboration, our team is a major contributor to large-scale design and planning projects across the airport.”

To further the industry-leading DEI goals set by LAWA, the team led a dual mentorship programme that brought five mentees to the offices of HOK+Arup to gain on-the-job experience working for a major airport.

The 12-week programme was aimed at individuals reaching the end of their studies in the AEC industry.

To recruit Los Angeles–based students for the programme, HOK+Arup worked with diversity, equity and inclusion and public affairs partner The Robert Group to conduct outreach to local universities and professional organisations.

Through the recruitment process, the group explored proactive ways to increase the number of women and people of color pursuing professional careers in the industry.

The cohort worked across project management and operations initiatives during the mentorship program. During meetings and presentations with LAWA, the mentees were exposed to the skills and approaches needed to collaborate on large infrastructure projects.

The opportunity also gave participants exposure to working with the small, local and minority businesses that are part of the HOK+Arup team.

Of the programme, mentee Kaitelyn Haynes, said: “I not only gained a better understanding of the multidisciplinary collaboration that goes into aviation project management, but got an insight into how my skill sets and background bring a valuable perspective to these discussions and environments.”

Collaborating for positive change

As a prominent hub for national and global travellers, the collaborative efforts of LAWA and HOK+Arup are helping to create a reimagined LAX where efficiency, thoughtful design and unexpected delights elevate guests’ experiences.

Guided by strategic campus optimisation plans that are rooted in comprehensive studies and passenger journey mapping, LAX is on track to further passenger satisfaction and convenience.

Additionally, by prioritising diversity, equity and inclusion within the project team and through mentorship initiatives, LAWA and HOK+Arup are engaging in meaningful DEI initiatives and paving the way for the next generation.

As LAX readies itself to host prestigious sporting events, it embraces its role not only as a gateway to Los Angeles but as a destination in its own right.

About the authors

Justin Wortman is regional leader of aviation and transportation at HOK and Jon Phillips is a principal at Arup.

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