Studio Gang Wins Major Design Competition for Chicago O’Hare Airport Expansion
When the city of Chicago determined to build a major expansion of O’Hare Airport by adding a new Global Terminal, it launched an international competition, soliciting expertise from around the world. As announced today by Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, the winner of the competition, Studio ORD, comes with a made-in-Chicago imprimatur. Led by Chicago architect Jeanne Gang, Studio ORD, as the competition team called itself, consists of several companies, including Studio Gang, Solomon Cordwell Buenz, Corgan, Milhouse Engineering and Construction, and another local design firm, STL Architects. As Emanuel said in a statement, “The City of Chicago called up on teams from across the city and around the world to lead O’Hare’s historic expansion, and Studio ORD answered that call.”
Set to break ground in 2023, the project will add a 2.2 million-square-foot Global Terminal and Concourse—at a cost of $2.2 billion. The designers laid out the terminal as a Y shape. This will not only maximize runway adjacency, but it also references Chicago’s identity. When seen from above, the shape resembles Chicago’s official symbol, the Y shape of the Chicago River. “As a native Chicagoan, I understand deeply the importance of O’Hare to our city’s identity,” said Gang in a statement.
Inside the proposed building, a soaring roof will be supported by slender Y-shaped columns. Lush plantings under a wood ceiling will create an environment meant to offset the stress of air travel. A vast central skylight will provide a naturally lit space. The project is part of a $8.5 billion expansion to O’Hare’s Terminal 2, which, together with Studio ORD’s new building, will integrate international and domestic operations at O’Hare.
The announcement of Studio ORD’s winning proposal comes as the culmination of an international design competition. In January 2019, the city shortlisted five teams: Studio ORD, SOM, Santiago Calatrava, a joint venture led by Colorado-based Fentress Architects, and a partnership between Foster + Partners, Epstein, Moreno. As Emanuel put it, Studio ORD had “the experience, expertise, and the talent needed to work with the City of Chicago as we usher in a new era at O’Hare.”
Architect and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient Jeanne Gang will lead a Studio ORD team in expanding Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Gang, who is the founder of architecture and urban design practice Studio Gang and the lead designer of Studio ORD, led one of five teams shortlisted in an international design competition in which teams representing Santiago Calatrava, Norman Foster, Curtis Fentress, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) were also finalists.
The objective of the design competition was to conceptualize the airport’s new Global Concourse and Terminal. Studio ORD’s winning design will span more than two million square feet, replacing the airport’s existing Terminal 2. The execution of the design, which is now entering contract negotiation, is expected to break ground in 2023 and has been celebrated for its openness and airiness. Functionally, the concourse and terminal will unite international and domestic arrivals and departures.
Three distinct “branches” of the terminal converge into a ‘Y’ shape, evocative of the Chicago river. Curved corridors, which are intended to improve navigability, lead to a light-filled central Oculus. The design will be required to meet a LEED Gold Status certification, according to a statement from the Mayor’s Press Office.
“The new Global Terminal and Global Concourse is a critical project for unlocking both O’Hare’s potential to be a leader in aviation and Chicago’s future success as a contemporary, economically strong, and truly global city,” said Gang in a statement from Studio ORD. “As a native Chicagoan, I understand deeply the importance of O’Hare to our city’s identity, and I am honored that my hometown has provided my team the opportunity to realize a design that can demonstrate Chicago’s unique culture, traditions, and diversity to visitors and residents alike.”