calatrava, SOM, and foster unveil competing proposals for chicago airport expansion

calatrava, SOM, and foster unveil competing proposals for chicago airport expansion

the chicago department of aviation unveils the five proposed designs for a colossal expansion of o’hare international airport. the sculptural designs for the $8.5 billion undertaking will showcase a new global terminal that combines both domestic and international flights. from soaring, undulating roof structures to naturalist influences with interior green space pavilions, the speculative designs by some of the world’s leading architecture firms including santiago calatrava, SOMfoster + partners, and jeanne gang, aim to optimize efficiency while capturing the contemporary spirit of the US city.


together with an evaluation committee, chicago mayor rahm emanuel is encouraging the public to vote on their favorite designs to shape the future of o’hare — vote here! scheduled to open in 2028 and to be financed by airline ticket fees, the project is to be the largest and most expensive terminal expansion in o’hare’s entire 74-year history. read below for each team’s description of its vision for the terminal expansion.



santiago calatrava

chicago airport expansion
all images courtesy of chicago department of aviation



o’hare’s global terminal by santiago calatrava is a masterwork of modern terminal architecture. with a glass façade and dramatic shell-like roof soaring over the approach road, the building unifies the terminal complex while establishing itself as its centerpiece.’





‘inside, vaulted, light-filled spaces celebrate both the grandeur and simplicity of bygone travel as customers move easily to and from gate areas enlivened by chicago-focused concessions in an airy, park-like setting. convenient links to adjacent terminals, satellite concourses, and public transit support a future vision plan that transforms the area opposite the terminal into a vibrant hotel, retail and business complex.’



skidmore, owings & merrill

chicago airport expansion



we have delivered global excellence in this great city, shaping chicago’s skyline, neighborhoods and public realm for more than 80 years. it’s said that our chicago buildings turn pragmatism into poetry. our elegantly undulating o’hare global terminal aims to be the world’s best, through optimal functional planning, great design, and keen practicality — all quintessential chicago qualities.’





‘we infuse the muscular heritage of chicago architecture and engineering with many lessons from the natural environment, to increase human comfort, save energy and define a distinctive sense of place. this can be chicago’s next great building and our new gateway to the world.’



studio ORD, led by jeanne gang

chicago airport expansion



chicago is a city defined by motion; confluence — of our river, of trail networks, of railroads — has shaped our most vibrant civic spaces. studio ORD’s elegant and efficient design for the o’hare global terminal and global concourse unifies the airport’s campus by converging seamless lines of motion across three terminals around a spectacular central oculus.’





‘this confluence becomes orchard field — a vibrant neighborhood that combines abundant green spaces with distinctive landmarks, bespoke retail pavilions, and diverse activity zones. richly layered and easily navigable, it captures the unique character of chicago and redefines o’hare as a 21st century international destination.’



foster + epstein + moreno

chicago airport expansion



our design is based upon a sequence of memorable and distinctive spaces that create a gateway to chicago with architecture that is open, transparent, inclusive, welcoming and functional, in turn resolving the sophisticated security, airport and airline requirements in a way that meets the needs of both employees and passengers.’





‘three arches frame the landside of the building, merging into a grand single arch on the airside, thus dissolving the barrier between inside and out and allowing the spectacle of the airfield to be visible to all who pass through the gateway, and recapturing the romance associated with air travel.



fentress + EXP + brook + garza

chicago airport expansion



the fentress-EXP-brook-garza joint venture’s globally-minded terminal design for chicago provides an elegant, spacious, and sustainable gateway to connect chicagoans and the world with speed and efficiency. soaring spaces sparkle with sunlight and lift the human spirit. daylight and spatial composition guide passengers intuitively and purposefully.





‘the latest technological advances shape a smart, seamless, comfortable, and unencumbered experience. from arrival to departure, every element of the new terminal is crafted to elevate the passenger, making their journey inspiring, engaging, stirring, and fun. our vision is to return the romance of air travel to all who pass through chicago’s o’hare.

    have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.
    all comments are reviewed for the purposes of moderation before publishing.

    comments policy
    LOG IN
    designboom's comment policy guidelines
    generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
    the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

    what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
    let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

    - please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
    - please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
    - please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
    - please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
    - please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
    (there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
    in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
    the best 100-200 entries too.)

    a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


    a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

    architecture news

    keep up with our daily and weekly stories
    502,528 subscribers
    - see sample
    - see sample