Vintage LA: Mosaic Tiles at LAX

Alison Martino Hollywood

To Angelinos, nothing says “Welcome Home” more than the iconic mosaic tiles at LAX.

For six seasons, Matthew Weiner’s Emmy-sweeping Mad Men used the stark chicness of mid-century Manhattan as its backdrop, but things got groovier when they headed for Los Angeles. The promotional campaign for the final installment of the AMC hit featured Megan Draper and other cast members walking through Los Angeles International Airport’s Terminal 4, framed by Charles D. Kratka’s multicolored tile wall.

Photo: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

The designer and graphic artist, who died in 2007, was hired in the late 1950s to upgrade LAX for the jet age, which included the creation of this geometric eye candy. Kratka’s mosaic can be seen only by arriving passengers, but the 300-foot-long piece is a journey in itself: The blue panels at the entrance represent the Pacific; the subsequent browns, yellows and oranges, the Rockies; the green and gray sections, the Midwest; and some navy, the Atlantic, at the end. In Don Draper’s day it was called “The Astro Walk,” but we know it better as “I’m home”.

During a private tour for this LOS ANGELES MAGAZINE article, I had the great pleasure of being escorted by LAX experts on the tunnels. I filmed this quick clip of one of their LAX’s employees explaining the significance of the tiles.

Movies such as, “POINT BLANK”, “MIDNIGHT MADNESS”, “AIRPLANE!”, “JACKIE BROWN”, “HIGH ANXIETY” and THE GRADUATE were all shot in this mid century space age tunnel.

See below for a gallery of photos, promo shots, video, and archival items all featuring Charles Kratka’s famous mid century masterpiece!

“Smog” 1962

“Sunday in New York” 1963

“The Loved One” 1965

“Point Blank” 1967

“Rockford Files” 1974

“Jackie Brown” 1997

Footage shot in 2014

Peter Falk and Robert Culp, “Columbo” 1973

“Airplane!” 1980

“Mad Men” Promo Shots:

Original 1963 Press Release

Lucy at the 1963 Astro Walk Dedication Ceremony

Dean Martin and Dick Martin

Brian Wilson (Beach Boys) and friends

John Densmore, Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger of The Doors at LAX, 1968

Lee Marvin in “Point Blank”

I was lucky enough to capture the above video on my cell phone years back when nobody else was in the tunnel. Matt Monro’s BORN FREE was playing in the background. It truly felt like I had stepped into a time machine.

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Alison Martino is a writer, television producer, and pop culture historian. She founded the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles in 2010. Alison muses on L.A’s. past and present on Twitter and Instagram.

A portion of the above article was published in Los Angeles Magazine