Long Beach, California


The history of aviation in Long Beach, California, is legendary—from the landing, on its sandy shores, of the first transcontinental flight to its female-powered aircraft production during World War II and its more recent output of mammoth commercial and military jets. Yet, decades after vast and complex airports became the norm, Long Beach (LGB)'s passenger terminal remained a quaint relic of a bygone era.

In the romantic spirit of early air travel, W. Horace Austin and Kenneth Wing designed this gleaming-white Streamline Moderne structure in 1941 with nautical portholes and heroic floor mosaics. Even as modern jets dwarfed the classic 24,000-square-foot terminal, its curb-to-gate journey, typically with just a couple of planes boarding at once, was a breeze, reminiscent of a small island airport.

As jet sizes and security requirements grew, LGB inserted a cluster of ad hoc passenger-handling structures—including more than 20 converted trailers—between the original building and its more ambitious airside. Despite the modesty of this municipal facility, it's always had impressive runways to accommodate the high-powered aeronautical manufacturers sharing the airfield. Along its edges, Boeing operates the former Douglas (later McDonnell-Douglas) plant, whose production has included DC-10s and C-17s, and Gulfstream Aerospace runs a finishing and servicing center.

In 2005, the airport explored updating the passenger facilities, engaging CH2M Hill engineers, with HOK, to produce an environmental-impact report (EIR). But community opposition—centered on Long Beach's stringent noise-abatement policies—stalled further work. There was also concern about preserving the prominence and integrity of this landmarked icon, as well as the ease and spirit of traveling through it.

By late 2010—agreeing on conditions such as capping the number of gates at the existing 11—the airport and community were finally ready to move forward. For the multiphased $140 million plan, HOK won the $45 million commission to design LGB's new concourses—providing gate-side boarding lounges and concessions—plus a security-screening building, a central meet-and-greet plaza, and adjacent grounds. (The historic terminal's renovation will occur in a later phase.)

Inspired by Southern California's mild climate, HOK's solution interweaves secure indoor and outdoor spaces, keeping the airport experience relaxed, even resortlike, while, almost imperceptibly, meeting the constraints of budget, access controls, and EIR-allowed square footage.

The modernization keeps the 1941 terminal front and center, the airport's gateway and pinnacle. The building houses many of its original functions: ticketing and check-in at grade; a restaurant overlooking the airfield one floor up; and a control tower, now used for backup operations, at the top. Still freestanding and requiring no security clearance for its public interior spaces, the building allows 360-degree circulation around its perimeter.

Beyond it, travelers pass HOK's open-air meet-and-greet plaza, en route to the 8,900-square-foot security-checkpoint building. Its steel moment frame allows for flexibility. “The TSA's setup changes all the time,” explains HOK design principal Ernest Cirangle, “so we needed to design for that.”

Once screened, passengers have the rare opportunity—within an airport—to enjoy the outdoors. To reach the concourses, they cross a secure 21,000-square-foot garden, studded with palm trees and native drought-tolerant plants. Its canopy-shaded wooden boardwalks evoke the city's beachfront. And the concessions are all local, including coffee and wine bars, plus a patio with fire pit–side dining.

Transparent and clean-edged, HOK's long, rectangular concourses house the boarding gates in two separate, aligned buildings (25,000 and 13,000 square feet, respectively). Between them is a garden, on axis with the original control tower.

The decision not to install any boarding bridges saved about $500,000 each (from a budget already significantly lower per gate than the average airport). It also let the architects keep the concourses low: one story, rather than the two required for jetways. So, the 1941 building remains visible throughout the facility.

“We weren't trying to mimic or upstage the historic terminal,” says Cirangle of HOK's design, now on track for LEED Gold certification. “Our idea was to quietly offer a different, but compatible experience that would complement or resonate with the original.” Retaining the sense of convenience, clarity, and proximity to the aircraft, the boarding lounges are at grade, with polished-concrete floors flowing directly out to the tarmac.

“It's more like a destination than a transportation hub,” says LBG senior civil engineer Jeff Sedlak. “I've seen arriving passengers lingering here for a glass of wine or a meal before exiting security.” And he often spots people snapping photos of the airport concourses—perhaps because the palm tree-and-boardwalk ambience has a way of making any arrival, whatever its purpose, feel like the beginning of a vacation.


Owner:  City of Long Beach

9530 Jefferson Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Ernest Cirangle, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C, Design Principal (registered Architect)
Dave Holloway, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Project Manager / Project Architect (registered Architect)
Chris Anderson, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Project Designer (registered Architect)
Kyle Wang, Job Captain, Construction Administrator (not a registered Architect)
Ellen Resurreccion, (not a registered Architect)
Analisa Alt, LEED AP BD+C, Interior Designer

Interior designer:  HOK (see project team above)

Saiful/Bouquet, Inc.

VCA Engineers, Inc.

Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, Fire Protection:
Syska Hennessy Group

Information Technology:
Faith Group



Horton Lees Brogden

Newson Brown Acoustics

Baggage Handling:
BNP Associates

Cost Estimating:
Jacobus & Yuang

Signage & Graphics:
Hunt Design Associates

Code Consultant:

General contractor:
Liberty Mutual Surety (via a Takeover Agreement with the City of Long Beach)
Soltek Pacific (completion contractor for Liberty Mutual)
Edge Development (Original GC, went out of business / defaulted during construction)

Airport photographer:  Thomas McConville, phone:  562.889.4005

David Lena, phone: 310-480-7007


46,000 square feet

Construction cost:

$28 million

Project cost: 

$45 million

Completion date:

December 2012



Structural system
Steel moment frame

Exterior cladding
Metal Panels:

Metal/glass curtain wall:

EIFS, ACM, or other:

Moisture barrier:

Curtain wall:



Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope

Sliding doors:

Special doors:
LaCantina Doors



Exit devices:
Von Duprin

Security devices:
Von Duprin / Ingersoll Rand

Interior finishes
Acoustical ceilings
Hunter Douglas Contract (linear metal ceilings)
Armstrong (acoustical ceilings)

Suspension grid:
Hunter Douglas Contract

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork:
Pacific Architectural Millwork

Paints and stains:
Sherwin Williams

Paneling: (metal wall panels, interior)

Plastic laminate:

Solid surfacing:
3Form, Dupont “Corian”

Special surfacing:

Floor and wall tile:
Royal Mosa (public restrooms)
Daltile (janitor’s closets)

Atlas Mills, Interface

Fixed seating:

Hightower Group, LLC

Interior ambient lighting:
Neo-Ray, Elliptipar

Cooper Lighting


Birchwood Lighting, Bega, Lithonia,

Dimming System or other lighting controls:

Kohler, Sloan, Haws

Energy management or building automation system:

Photovoltaic system:
Installer:  Eberhard Energy Systems
Manufacturer:  SolarWorld