In August, the Gateway LAX enhancement project was unveiled and fifteen 100-foot-high pylons, 32-foot-high letters spelling out LAX, and fifteen smaller towers in varying heights were illuminated, creating a 'gateway of light' leading guests into the Los Angeles International Airport. Part of a $112 million construction, signage, and landscaping program, the pylons greet visitors with a vivid color-changing spectacle. (See 'Dusk 'Til Dawn,' Jan/Feb 2001.) Or so they did, until their high-maintenance system began to fail and the towers were turned off on January 2, 2006.

But LAX won't be without them for long. Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the airport's agency, is conducting a makeover in which all 30 pylons will be revamped by this summer. The old system, state-of-the-art at the time of installation, was based on a theatrical stage-lighting system with color filters; however, says Charles Sipple, chief of LAWA Construction & Maintenance, 'it was anticipated at the time of installation that a major maintenance or upgrade would be required by 2005.' Rather than maintaining the old system or replacing it entirely, alternatives were studied, and a $2.5 million upgrade to newer LED-based technology was proposed.

The new LED technology is expected to reduce the energy cost by 75 percent per year, with a significant reduction in maintenance expenses, equating to $7.5 million in savings over the ten-year life expectancy of the LEDs. While providing brighter intensity and more consistency in color tone throughout the pylons, the LED technology will be easier to program on an as-needed basis with a much wider range of potential-the pylons can become 'Dodger blue,' for example, should the Los Angeles team win a championship. With 16 million color possibilities in its palette, the combinations are endless. 'While we do not intend to use all 16 million possibilities,' Sipple says, 'a tremendous range of colors is available to our programmers.'