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Take a look at five futuristic designs for O’Hare’s new international terminal

Written by
Marty Johnson

O'Hare International Airport is getting the biggest addition of its 74-year history with construction of a new international terminal, but the design of the new space remains up in the air.

This morning Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Aviation revealed the five designs that are in the running, complete with renderings and models of the planned $8.5 billion expansion of O'Hare's international terminal. Dubbed the O'Hare Global Terminal, the addition will add a staggering 2.25 million square feet to the airport, which would make the terminal one of the largest in the country.

Unlike most projects of this scale, Chicagoans will actually get to help determine which of the five designs gets chosen. From now through January 23, city residents can view renderings of each of the proposed terminals and take a five-question survey to voice their opinion. Want to see the proposed designs in person? 3D models of the finalists are on display at the Chicago Architecture Center (111 E Upper Wacker Dr) through the end of January.

“Chicago is taking a bold step forward to choose the architect team that will set the course for O’Hare’s biggest transformation yet,” Emanuel said in a press release. “This design competition celebrates our tradition of innovation and world-leading architectural history. As we move forward with the O’Hare expansion, we invite our residents and travelers to weigh in on one of the largest terminals in the country.”

The O'Hare Global Terminal is the focal point of O'Hare 21, Emanuel's ambitious plan to drastically upgrade the city's largest airport over the course of the next decade. The new terminal is expected to make access to gates and connecting flights more fluid, and will also create thousands of construction jobs before it is finished. The expansion is currently slated for a 2028 opening date.

While all of the designs are impressive, two of them caught our eye.

O'Hare Global Terminal rendering

Illustration: Courtesy Foster Epstein Moreno Joint Venture Partners

Foster Epstein Moreno Joint Venture Partners

With a canopy that evokes Beijing's Bird's Nest stadium and The Jestons, the open layout of Foster Epstein Moreno's design would be a departure from O'Hare's crammed concourses. The arching design and the all-glass facade would allow plenty of natural light during the day and create a warm glow at night, making it a perfectly welcoming global hub (and our first choice).

O'Hare Global Terminal rendering

Illustration: Courtesy Santiago Calatrava LLC

Santiago Calatrava LLC

This design comes in as a close second for us. While it's somewhat similar to the previous design (nearly all of the finalists have a penchant for undulating white canopies) this one appears to use a lot of glass to create a wavy roof. The design would extend into some of O'Hare's existing green space and includes a section that would house a hotel, retail space and other businesses.

Take a look at the other three proposed designs for the O'Hare Global Terminal below.

O'Hare Global Terminal

Illustration: Courtesy Fentress-EXP-Brook-Garza Joint Venture Partners

O'Hare Global Terminal

Illustration: Courtesy Studio ORD Joint Venture Partners

O'Hare Global Terminal

Illustration: Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

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