The wing-shaped extension of Terminal 5 at O’Hare International Airport, bathed in natural light, is set to become the gateway to Chicago for many travelers. Its open design offers sweeping views of the aircraft and cityscape, providing an uplifting welcome to the city.
This is the terminal’s first major expansion since it opened in 1993. It’s a significant first step in the O’Hare 21 program, which aims to modernize one of the world’s most-traveled airports.
The project was originally conceived as a linear extension of the current concourse, a configuration that allowed for limited communal space and amenities. Instead, the team proposed bending this linear design into a boomerang shape. This optimized airfield real estate while allowing for the creation of a grand, urban plaza-inspired space. An array of lounges, gates and shops capture the energy of city life.
Establishing a seamless link between the older terminal and the new extension, the roof curves elegantly, peaking at the terminal’s elbow. The unique clerestory floods the space with natural light, creating a sense of belonging and offering navigational cues to passengers.
The building’s flexible design ensures it can keep pace with evolving aircraft demands and terminal uses. It can accommodate almost every aircraft and a varying number of planes, serving international and domestic flights. The terminal’s adaptability extends to hosting diverse retailers, performances, public art, food carts and other activities.
The design embraces a neuro-inclusive environment, recognizing the potential stress airports can induce, particularly for neurodivergent individuals. Incorporating natural and circadian lighting reduces visual noise and sensory overload, with quieter, energy-saving mechanical systems further enhancing the calming effect.
The project, which features sustainable design elements and wellness features such as high-performance glass and durable, eco-friendly materials, is on track to achieve LEED Silver certification.
A $3.5 million city-curated art program represents the largest single acquisition of public art in a generation. The space features a series of art installations on the arrivals and departures levels from emerging local artists hailing from underrepresented communities.
Exceeding the minimum requirements for Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) participation as stipulated by the City of Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) and federal guidelines, the project has already sparked economic growth.
HOK and Muller & Muller, Ltd. collaborated on the design with the Chicago Department of Aviation. Construction will finish in phases through 2023.