SIGHTINGS : Control Freak

It's been maligned as a "monstrosity" and a "shaggy palm tree" and has suffered a host of aesthetic revisions. Now, as Los Angeles International Airport's new $20-million air-traffic control tower approaches its March debut, here are some particulars to mull over:

It's tall: At 277 feet, the tower dwarfs the existing facility, built in 1961, by 117 feet. It's roomy: The tower's 1,000-square-foot "cab" is nearly three times the size of the original's, where as many as 12 controllers have toiled in guest bedroom-like intimacy.

It's got views: There are none of the sight-line problems that plague controllers in the 160-foot existing tower, which has blind spots caused by new terminal buildings.

It's . . . special: The standard unadorned Federal Aviation Administration-approved tower didn't cut it with the Cultural Affairs Commission, which demanded an only-in-L.A. design. The resulting stylized wings, struts and quasi-aeronautical doodads bombed with the city's Airport Commission, which finally approved the present, much-toned-down design in 1991.

It's metaphorical: A medallion with twinkling lights on the tower's side is meant to evoke a controller's radar screen.

It could have been worse: The gray exterior paint scheme was once going to be red.

--Compiled by Evelyn Sheinkopf

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