Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 21:45 | SYDNEY
Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 21:45 | SYDNEY

Scenes from LAX and Dulles


Sam Roggeveen


28 March 2011 09:06

At Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Washington Dulles International Airport — both of which I have just traveled through — you see expressed in architectural form the promise of modernity: 

The Theme Building at LAX (1961). Photo by Flickr user monkeytime.

The Dulles main terminal (1962). Photo by Flickr user x-ray delta one.

Actually existing modernity, as expressed through today's airports, is something else again. Enough accounts have been written of modern airport security (especially but not only in the US) and the transformation of airports into shopping centres for me not to have to labour the point. In fairness, Dulles has undergone a substantial upgrade recently, and getting out of the place was far less of an ordeal than I remember it. There's also a train line from Dulles to the city under construction.

But function is only one thing; what about form' Is it possible to imagine buildings of such imagination and optimism going up at a US airport today' If not, is that a function of the changing role of airports (which now have to generate enormous revenue from retail) or does it reflect a lack of civic ambition'

For more on the politics and sociology of airports, here's a short video from philosopher Alain de Botton.