LAX’s Theme Building, Then and Now

A photo captures airport commissioner Don Belding working in front of the LAX Theme Building

If the LAX Theme Building conjures images of invading aliens, you may be able to thank lead architect William Pereira’s brother, Hal, who was the art director on War of the Worlds. Resembling a landing spaceship, the building was intended to serve as a control tower, but plans changed during the ten-year design process. In 1960, airport commissioner Don Belding waved in the placement of a 135-foot arch as a Herald Examiner photographer snapped away.

Construction was finished the following year, and the building has become one of the city’s most iconic structures. After a half-ton hunk of stucco fell from an arch in 2007, three years of renovation ensued. One improvement not on the list: making Encounter, the rooftop restaurant, rotate.

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