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Light My Flier
The LAX Gateway Pylon Project (officially titled Untitled) is the largest permanent art installation in the world. Created by multimedia artist Paul Tzanetopoulos (and the architectural firm of Ted Tokio Tanaka) for $15 million, the glass towers have cast a glow since 2000. Here’s a guide to what makes them shine.
1. The Dimensions
There are 26 pylons (or structures). The 11 smaller pieces are 6 feet wide and between 25 and 60 feet high. They are located one-and-a-half miles east of the LAX entrance along Century Boulevard. The 15 larger pylons form what is known as the Gateway Circle. They measure 12 feet wide and 100 feet high and are found at the intersection of Century and Sepulveda boulevards.
2. The Colors
According to the artist, the colors in each light show are not arbitrary. The white of an unlit pylon symbolizes purity; blue represents the airport. When the pylons change to red, white, and blue, they acknowledge the specificity of place, both in terms of the United States as a country and LAX as a gateway to the world. Yellow is a reference to the sun. If the pylons are moving between greens and blues, they are paying homage to ecology and nature.
3. The Lighting
The original programmed sequences required metal halide lamps, glass filters, and electromechanical color scrollers for each structure. In 2006, the entire system was replaced with LED lights. There are nearly 1,800 LEDs inside each structure. The LED system uses only 25 percent of the energy that was consumed by the initial fixtures, bringing LAX’s annual $73,000 power bill for the installation down to $18,000. The LEDs have also drastically reduced the maintenance costs, from $1 million to $20,000 per year.
4. The Sequencing
The pylons have a rotating display palette of 16.7 million colors (30,000 of which are currently programmed into the custom system). The installation stays lit from sundown to sunrise seven days a week and changes color from every 15 minutes to every three hours.
5. The Material
Each pylon is made of a vertical steel truss and wrapped in translucent fiberglass panels. They were designed to display videos as well as emit colorful lights, but the feature was thought to be too distracting for drivers.