last week, five proposed designs to modernize o’hare international airport with a new terminal building were unveiled by the chicago department of aviation. santiago calatrava is one of five international teams on the shortlist to complete the project, which is scheduled to open in 2028 and to be financed by airline ticket fees.

 

below, we take an exclusive look at the architect’s design, a scheme which seeks to dramatically ‘redefine the modern terminal with a masterwork of civic architecture.’ a vaulted, light-filled terminal hall is framed by a glass façade and a sweeping, shell-like roof that recalls the grandeur of bygone travel.

santiago calatrava chicago ohare airport
all images © santiago calatrava

 

 

importantly, calatrava’s concept for the site goes beyond the terminal building. a functionally independent campus, which could be realized at a later date, has also been presented as a complementary element to the competition entry. the proposal has been conceived as a holistic ‘airport city’ where airline terminals, hotels, conference centers, and retail outlets converge around a transport interchange with direct links to the city center.

santiago calatrava chicago ohare airport

 

 

an early design strategy was to combine the terminal building with the gate’s concourse to create one centralized entity. this configuration not only establishes a clear focal point for the airport, but also allows for ease of transfer for both united and american airlines — located in terminal 1 and 3, respectively. the station’s centralized location also renders the need to extend a potential automated people mover (APM) to terminal 3 unnecessary.

santiago calatrava chicago ohare airport

 

 

this approach stems from prioritizing the passenger experience. as a result of the configuration, walking distances to gates, between terminals, and to the APM station are significantly reduced. retail and food and beverage outlets are set within the interior gardens at the center of a grand, light-flooded space, adjacent to all passenger gates. the compact building form, which reduces the building’s footprint by 10% and reduces its envelope by 20%, also frees additional space for the movement of wide-body aircraft.

santiago calatrava chicago ohare airport

 

 

the design also references the city of chicago in a number of different ways. the roof of the terminal building echoes the shell motif found on the city’s seal, while a verdant orchard — evoking the early history of the o’hare site — provide travelers with the experience of waiting for their flights in a garden. meanwhile, centered in the heart of the terminal, the APM station is configured as a chicago ‘Y’ — a symbol that represents the chicago river and its two branches.

 

 

the o’hare global terminal will house all airport operations for departing and arriving passengers, including check-in and ticketing, screening, federal inspection services (FIS) and transfers services for international arrivals, airline lounges, retail, and dining. all baggage operations — drop-off, scanning, storage, pick-up, and transfers — are located within the terminal. a flexible baggage hall allows real-time configuration changes to respond to domestic and international arrivals and the corresponding FIS needs.

santiago calatrava chicago ohare airport

 

 

calatrava is on a shortlist with five other international teams taking part in the competition (see the full list of proposed designs here). the public is invited to help shape the future of o’hare by voting for their favorite scheme here — you can also track the results, and cast a vote in curbed’s unofficial poll here, where calatrava is currently holding the lead.

santiago calatrava chicago ohare airport

santiago calatrava chicago ohare airport

santiago calatrava chicago ohare airport

santiago calatrava chicago ohare airport


section (click the image to enlarge)

 

 

project info:

 

architect: santiago calatrava
location: o’hare airport, chicago, USA
client: department of aviation, city of chicago

    have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.

    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.

    PRODUCT LIBRARY

    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