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LAX Gateway Pylon Project

Kinetic Light Installation



Sepulveda/Century Boulevard Exchange

Los Angeles International Airport

LAX Letters by Ted Tokio Tanaka Architects

Photo by Tom Paiva 

Artist:  Paul Tzanetopoulos

Date: 2000


The significance of the lighting in the pylons pivots around its scale and kinetic quality.  In the evening, the pylons become volumes of colors and kinetic light forms, unique in scale and variability. Functioning both as architectural and sculptural elements, steeped in geo-historical context, they resonate with contemporary and classical character.  Classically, as forms and volumes, they point to an uplifting nature and provide a strong sense of place.  The internal lighting conceptually turns the pylons inside out by appearing to have absorbed its environment and re-illustrating it in a kinetic light display.  The Los Angeles social spectrum and diversity are literally played out in the varied colors and luminosities emitted from the pylons.

The lighting in the pylons provides a welcoming motion and path to the airport and its facilities. The overall kinetic geometry illustrated in the pylons moves at a rate and direction designed to grab attention and direct the casual observer and, more specifically, the airport community and all its constituencies, to LAX.  All aspects of the color and kinetic qualities pivot around a thematic metaphorical spectrum for diversity and tolerance emanating from LAX.


26 illuminated pylons

11 pylons, 6’ diameter, ranging from 25’ to 60’ on Century Blvd.


15 pylons, 12’ diameter, 100’ high at the intersection of Century Boulevard & Sepulveda Boulevard


Translucent glass, computer-driven kinetic light display

Commissioned By:

Los Angeles World Airports, for Los Angeles International Airport

Public Art Consultant:

Michelle Isenberg and Associates, Inc. (1999-2000)

Gateway to LA Liaison and Facilitation:

Merry Norris, Merry Norris Contemporary Art  (2000/2006)


Los Angeles International Airport
Century Boulevard and the Century/Sepulveda Boulevards Exchange,
Los Angeles, California, USA

Kinetic Light Installation Description:

This work is a kinetic light installation for the LAX Gateway project that is incorporated into twenty-six large-scale translucent glass towers of varying sizes.    All towers are synchronized and computer-driven with lighting interface.

This thematic lighting display consists of a variety of both colored light and white light kinetic sequences. They vary from rainbow-like color arrays which change per pylon, to the pylons appearing as monolithic colors which change from one overall color to another, in sequential patterns that begin down Century Boulevard and terminate in the circular LAX cluster.  The project is choreographed and sequenced so that all the pylons appear to be working in conjunction.  All pylons are synchronized so as to create a unifying and welcoming motion toward the airport. The lighting display program repeats in a three-hour cycle.

International Illumination Design Award of Excellence, The Paul Waterbury Award for Outdoor Lighting Design
  by the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, 2001
Award of Merit, Lumen West Awards, 2001

City of Los Angeles Certificate of Commendation, 2010


A drive through of the ring of 15 pylons at the Century / Sepulveda
traffic exchange, 12/05/06For more VIDEOS, CLICK HERE.


                                             Photo by Tom Paiva


Project Description

The Kinetic Light Installation (untitled), 2000, by artist Paul Tzanetopoulos, is the public art component of the LAX Gateway Beautification Project.  Completed for the Los Angeles International Airport for Los Angeles World Airports on August 8, 2000, the work is the largest permanent public art lighting installation in the world.  The Kinetic Light Installation, visible at night, is housed within a complex of 26 giant, translucent glass pylons.

Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) worked with the City of Los Angeles’ Cultural Affairs Department to commission Tzanetopoulos primarily to create a large-scale public art work utilizing light and movement (the Kinetic Light Installation); and secondarily, to work within the LAX Gateway design team to create an artist’s interface that would allow the creative lighting programming within the pylons, and ensure that the lighting technology would be implemented and consistent with the goal of the public art element.

Tzanetopoulos says, “The overall concept was centered on the pylons functioning as both beacon and gateway to Los Angeles.  From the onset, it was important to me that this landmark become an enduring piece for Los Angeles -- it was crucial to maintain the pylons’ monolithic stance.  I wanted to create a landmark installation that still dealt with its location and purpose, while maintaining and amplifying its overall scale and complexity.  It was clear that this installation dealt with the greeting factor as a unique welcoming feature to travelers and the Los Angeles community.  I set out to create a focus in a very diffused and eclectic environment.”

Thematically, the pylons on Century Boulevard are illuminated so as to create a welcoming motion toward the airport.  The pylons in the circular central exchange (at Century and Sepulveda Boulevards) receive their motivation and color from this movement. 

The artist continues, “The colors metaphorically work from the airport out to the greater Los Angeles community – and beyond.  The colors begin with white purity and transition to a blue thematic position illustrating the airport.  Next is a color specifically attributed to represent the combined light of the universe.  Following is a sequence of red, white and blue illustrating the specificity of place (the United States, with LAX as a gateway), and then the colors transition to greens and blues, evoking terrestrial concerns and ecology.  The palette continues with rich, emotional values and hues that relate to my long-standing work with cultural patterns and colors of our ethnic diversity (saturated hues derived from ethnic textiles, flags, and regional art forms), and then transition to kinetic displays evoking modern notions of movement and technology.  The color palette is further amplified by my use of fades and transitions between colors to create thousands of transient, organic colors.”

For More Information, Fact Sheet and Details, Click HERE

       In 2006, the pylons were dark for many months while receiving a technological upgrade.  The instruments inside were replaced with LED lighting instruments.  LINK TO LAX 2006 UPGRADE CLICK HERE

The Kinetic Light Installation (untitled) 2000 by Paul Tzanetopoulos was the

public art component of the Gateway LAX Enhancements Project.

To view the Gateway LAX Enhancements Project TEAM, click HERE.

email Paul Tzanetopoulos: studio@tzap-art.com