March 2014 Last Look: Movie-Inspired Architecture

The design for part of one of Los Angeles’ airports was inspired by the spacecraft from the film The War of the Worlds.

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Last September, the new $1.9 billion Tom Bradley International Terminal at the Los Angeles airport opened to travelers. The sleek, über-modern terminal, however, isn’t the first time Southern California travelers have been treated to the latest in aviation architecture. Back in 1961 the Theme Building—which was part of the “Populuxe” school of architecture—was put into service. Its design, seen here, was inspired by spacecraft from the film The War of the Worlds. (The architect’s brother was art director on the movie.) The original 1959 design for the airport called for the terminal buildings and parking garages to be connected by a gigantic central glass dome. The plan was eventually scaled back, though, and the Theme Building was built to mark the spot where the dome would have been, a reminder of the original plan. Recently, the once-revolving restaurant closed; it was erected at a time when bringing your family out to have dinner and watch the airplanes was a cool thing to do. The observation deck, however, is still open on weekends.

David Kidd is a photojournalist and storyteller. He can be reached at