"Eventually, I think Chicago will be the most beautiful great city left in the world," said Frank Lloyd Wright, the American architect who dreamed of a vision for the City of Chicago in an age when no one could have fathomed the contemporary relationship between architecture and technology.
That vision finally saw light with the unprecedented 8.5 billion-dollar expansion project for the O’Hare International Airport, organised as a competition by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The contract was awarded to Studio ORD, an American architecture firm, to design the new O'Hare global terminal and the global concourse.
The design team for the project, led by architect Jeanne Gang, will attempt the transformation to be a reflection of a modern airport that will be an efficient, inspirational, and an easy to access gateway for the passengers. The new design will integrate international and domestic operations, providing travellers a much easier transition from an international flight to a domestic one, all under one roof.
At 2.2 million square feet, the new O’Hare global terminal will be one of the largest and most cutting edge terminals in the US, dramatically improving the first impressions and the overall experience of tens of millions visiting the city every year. It will also provide more than double the space at the present Terminal 2.
The new design proposed by Studio ORD resembles the confluence of the Chicago river, where three branches converge to create a hub that forms a vibrant neighbourhood in the heart of the O’Hare airport. At the confluence of the branches, a dramatic oculus welcomes visitors under a six-pointed glass skylight, its geometry resembling the Chicago flag. The design will also exhibit the entire building in the shape of the letter ‘Y’ to manifest Chicago’s official symbol when seen from above. The structure would be made in a way to maximise natural daylight and the use of energy.
Beneath the oculus are lush green trees, comfortable pieces of furniture, a space to hold pop-up events, musical shows or an informal gathering; cafes, shops and retail stores - together they all reflect upon the prolific culture of Chicago. The airport will not only be an outlet to board flights but also an adaptation of a neighbourhood that will find a place in every excursionist’s travel book.
The expansion that holds its value at 2.2 billion dollars is aimed at intensifying the visitors’ experience by enhancing passenger and baggage connectivity with the help of additional gates, co-location of domestic and international arrival gates, more space for concessions, lounges, state-of-the-art baggage systems, and expanded immigration and customs facilities.
Studio ORD will begin work at the airport in 2023 and is expected to be completed over a period of five years. The designers are creating a space for economic development along with employment generation. And the design is not just an artistic blueprint of the city but will also act as a showcase of amalgamation of art and architecture.