Murals for the Los Angeles International Airport


UPDATE FROM LOUISE SANDHAUS: After I completed the book, Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires & Riots, additional research led me to conclude that it was Janet Bennett, not Kratka who designed the mural. You can read about this research on Design Observer here.
"Like so many other designers of his generation, Kratka studied with Alvin Lustig at Art Center in 1947–48. He took a job with the Eames Office in 1947 but left six years later, frustrated by Charles Eames’s failure to acknowledge his contributions. Stories conflict about the meaning and purpose of the mosaic murals Kratka designed for the LAX tunnels, one of several large interior projects he completed during a diverse career. Ethel Pattison, an airport information specialist for the City of Los Angeles who has been cataloging the LAX archives, says that “the mosaics were designed to make the approximately 300-foot tunnels seem shorter… and [Kratka’s] approach gave passengers something of interest to look at.' Ann Proctor, director of volunteers at the LAX Flight Path Learning Center and Museum, remembers tour guides for school field trips comparing a walk alongside the mosaics to a trip eastward across the United States: the blue tiles at the entrance represent the Pacific, followed by browns, yellows, and oranges to evoke the heartland. 'There was one line of red tile in the middle, and we’d say, ‘We’re halfway across now, in the Midwest.’ The blue on the other end, that was the Atlantic Ocean.' For his part, Kratka offered a different explanation, telling his daughter that the geometric compositions that lined the seven tunnels (only two of which remain) depicted the changing seasons."—Louise Sandhaus, Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires & Riots: California and Graphic Design, 1936-1986, pp. 94