LAX Theme Building – Los Angeles, California - Atlas Obscura

LAX Theme Building

This quirky UFO-shaped curiosity is often mistaken for the airport’s control tower. 


Completed in 1961 in the Googie style once popular across California, this 135-foot-high building was meant as a symbol of the upcoming Space Age and was planned as the center of the airport. But things didn’t turn out that way.

The original airport design was meant to have all the terminal buildings and parking structures connect to a giant glass dome. After that grand idea was scaled down, this quirky behemoth—which looks like the cross between a flying saucer and a giant white spider—was built where the glass dome would have stood.

Since it opened in the early 1960s, aviation enthusiasts have been keen to take a short elevator ride up to the observation deck to scout out the many planes soaring through the sky around the airport. The funky, futuristic structure also once had an alien/Jetson-style restaurant that initially rotated and served themed cocktails like the “Black Hole.”

However, security fears after 9/11 and then some falling stucco (a half-ton chunk of exterior stucco crashed into its roof) saw several years of closures and repair and the restaurant shuttered some years ago. The deli on the ground level, a favorite with airport employees, recently closed its doors too.

Even without its restaurants, the building in general remains a Los Angeles Space Age icon and often features in movies and TV shows. It’s still possible to access the observation deck, which offers unparalleled views of the airport and beyond.

Update: As of August 2018, the building is no longer open to the public.

Know Before You Go

The observation deck offers fantastic views, but to you need ID before you can access the elevators and it’s only open the second weekend of each month from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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