The O’Hare Global Terminal by Santiago Calatrava redefines the modern terminal with a masterwork of civic architecture. Framed by a glass façade and a dramatic shell-like roof that soars over the forecourt, the building unifies the central terminal area while establishing itself as the singular identity for O’Hare.
The vaulted, light-filled terminal hall recalls the grandeur of bygone travel and unifies all activities around a departures and arrivals hall featuring retail outlets within a verdant garden. A grand central space provides visitors with clear visibility and intuitive wayfinding. References to Chicago iconography - the Chicago “Y” which is found on many buildings around the city - help enliven convenient links to adjacent terminals, airport satellites, and an improved public transit interface.
A future Vision plan proposed by Calatrava transforms the area opposite the Terminal into a vibrant park-like complex.
The Chicago Department of Aviation which oversees all aspects of the administration and management of Chicago’s two major airports - O’Hare (ORD) and Midway (MDW) - has outlined an expansive vision, O’Hare 21, to modernize O’Hare Airport and meet the transportation needs of the 21st century.
Calatrava was part of a shortlist of five international teams that have taken part in a design competition to design a landmark terminal building to replace O’Hare’s ageing terminal 2. A further Terminal Area Plan (TAP) development will be the construction of two Satellites, to be connected to the terminal via an underground Automated People Mover (APM).
The new terminal and its connected Satellites will house mostly international arrivals – currently routed to Terminal 5 – with modernized services for baggage, customs, and immigration. This configuration will expand the gate capabilities of the current terminal 2 by 25% and allow seamless connections for the estimated 50% of international arrivals that will transfer to domestic flights.
Phase I of the TAP – including the O’Hare Global Terminal (OGT) and the Satellites - is anticipated to be completed between 2021 and 2026. The CDA has set a budget of $6.1 billion for the first stage of the TAP. Of this, $1.8 billion has been allocated to the construction of the OGT.
Calatrava’s Concept for the Site
As a compliment to his O’Hare Global Terminal competition entry, Calatrava has presented a vision for the O’Hare campus which is functionally independent and can be realized in the future. This proposal presents a holistic vision of an Airport City: a quarter for Chicago where airline terminals, hotels, conference centers, and shopping converge around a multi-modal transport interchange with modernized links to the city.
The exterior of the building establishes a dynamic presence on the O’Hare campus, with a domed roof that cantilevers over the Arrivals and Departures Roads. The clear glass curtain wall offers approaching passengers views into the building, and a relocated ATS Station and new canopy helps unite the entire campus and improve public transportation access. The new terminal is thus both a unifier of the campus architecture and a bold new icon for O’Hare and Chicago.
Calatrava’s Concept for the Terminal
An early design strategy was to combine the terminal building with the gate’s concourse into one centralized entity. This configuration offers several important benefits: its symmetrical presence on the site provides a clear focal point for the O’Hare campus from the outside; its equidistant proximity to Terminals 1 and 3 allows for ease of transfer for both United and American Airlines, each one of the airlines occupying one of the adjacent terminal buildings respectively. The station’s centralized location also renders the need to extend the APM to Terminal 3 unnecessary.
Calatrava’s proposal to unify the terminal with the concourse in one centralized building stems from prioritizing the passenger experience. All gates and airport functions are visible from a centralized overlook post-security, providing clear and intuitive wayfinding and ease of orientation. Walking distances to gates, between terminals, and to the APM Station is reduced due to this configuration. Retail and food and beverage outlets are set within the interior gardens at the center of a grand light-flooded space, with all gates situated around this magnificent hall. Even the international arrivals corridor has commanding views of the grand space.
The compact building form - which maintains the requisite number of airline gates – also frees additional apron space for the movement of wide-body aircraft between the Terminal and the Satellites. It reduces the building’s footprint by 10% and reduces its envelope by 20%.
A number key references to Chicago create unique passenger experiences. The shell motif from the City of Chicago Seal is a metaphor for the layered values of the City on the lake. The roof of the terminal building echoes the shell’s triangular, fan-like shape, its soft curves and ribbing. A verdant Orchard – evoking the early history of the O’Hare site, originally known as Orchard Place – provide travelers with the singular experience of waiting for their flights in a garden. The APM station is configured as a Chicago “Y” and centered in the heart of the OGT, providing equitable passenger experience for travelers destined for gates at the Satellites.
The OGT (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 unique and flexible baggage hall allows real-time configuration changes to respond to domestic and international arrivals and the corresponding FIS needs.
The OGT will house 11 gates with up to 17 positions due to the use of flexible Multiple Apron Ramp System (MARS) gates which can accommodate various sized aircrafts. An additional 36 gates will be located in the Satellites.
10000 W O'Hare Ave,
Chicago, IL 60666