City of Chicago offers a glimpse of the new Satellite Concourse 1 at O’Hare Airport

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The city of Chicago is offering a glimpse of the new Satellite Concourse 1 that will be built as part of the long-awaited terminal overhaul at O’Hare International Airport.

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson unveiled this week SOM’s design for a major expansion to Chicago O’Hare Airport, one of the world’s busiest transportation hubs. SOM calls the addition Satellite Concourse 1, the first major component in a massive modernization project called the O’Hare 21 Terminal Area Plan.

O’Hare 21 aims to transform O’Hare’s terminal complex into a modern, efficient global hub that creates a more comfortable experience for travelers.

Satellite Concourse 1 New renderings

New renderings reveal a three-story passenger facility that soars 67 feet, featuring a wide-open, light-filled space to accommodate international and domestic travelers. The city will take three years to build the satellite concourse off Terminal 1, which serves as the home for United and its partner airlines. When finished, the satellite concourse will provide room to park up to 19 aircraft.

“We designed the new satellite concourse to create a frictionless experience for travelers, on par with the best airports in the world,” Scott Duncan, a design partner at Chicago-based SOM, said in a statement. “The gate lounges feature column-free expanses for easy wayfinding, high ceilings to optimize views and a daylighting strategy to help align the body’s natural rhythms — all to make the experience of air travel more pleasurable.”

New satellite concourse is one piece of a $6.1 billion project that upgrades the passenger facilities at O’Hare significantly for the first time in decades. The long-overdue facelift and expansion occur as O’Hare’s major competitors around the country beef up their facilities.

“Chicago’s airports play a critical role in the country’s aviation system and our local economy, impacting more than 700,000 jobs across the region and contributing more than $70 billion in economic activity. Investments in our airports are truly investments in our communities, generating new career opportunities for the people and families of Chicago and creating generational wealth among local entrepreneurs,” said Mayor Johnson.

Read also: New $8.5 Billion Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport Revamp Plan Signed

Satellite Concourse 1 design team

During the mayor’s announcement Tuesday morning, the design team displayed architectural renderings for Satellite Concourse 1. Chicago architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) lead the design team, which includes Ross Barney Architects, Juan Gabriel Moreno Architects (JGMA), and Arup.

The city selected the SOM-led team in 2019 to design the airport’s two satellite terminals as part of an international design competition, and this team will be the first to break ground. Despite the many challenges the Covid-19 pandemic posed to the airline and construction industries, the design for Satellite Concourse 1 is currently under budget and on track for construction, with on-site work on the airfield already underway to prepare for construction.

“We are proud to join SOM with JGMA and Arup, in designing the new O’Hare International Airport Satellite Concourse 1, where every journey will begin and end amidst the hustle and bustle of global connectivity. We have always advocated for the value of well-designed public spaces, particularly in the context of a major international airport like O’Hare”, said Ross Barney Architects Founder and Design Principal Carol Ross Barney, FAIA.

Read also: Balfour Beatty breaks ground on Concourse B at Jacksonville International Airport (JAX)

Environmental Conscious Design

A tree-like structural system inside Satellite Concourse 1 eliminates almost half the columns at the gates, reducing congestion and enabling more efficient boarding and improved visibility for passengers.

The design team uniquely tuned the modern design to the climate of the Midwest, finding efficiencies that prioritize wellbeing while also improving environmental performance. The branching structural system reduces the embodied carbon of the building, while the building’s curved roof profile minimizes heating and cooling needs, strategically overhanging to create shade during peak sun conditions while central skylights create daylit waiting areas year-round. High-performance mechanical and electrical systems further reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

A connection from the existing Concourse C drops passengers in an atrium, where connecting or departing passengers can relax in a garden-like setting that an oculus skylight above floods with daylight. The design team carefully selected materials throughout the interior to extend this natural palette, offering warmth and acoustic absorption.

Read also: JFK Airport’s Terminal 8 Undergoes $125M Commercial Redevelopment


Satellite Concourse 1 Final design & Completion date

The design team will have the final design ready by the end of next year, with completion of construction in 2028, a year later than recently expected.

The city expects to bid out construction contracts for the satellite concourse later this year, starting with excavation that includes a tunnel needed to connect travelers to the new global terminal that will replace Terminal 2.

Satellite construction to generate jobs

The city says the satellite construction alone will generate more than 3,800 jobs. The city has chosen the Aecom Hunt Clayco Bowa joint venture to manage this phase of the project.

What next after Satellite Concourse 1 construction

Once construction completes the satellite, the city Department of Aviation will focus on the centerpiece of the project, a replacement for Terminal 2 that allows incoming international passengers on United, American and their partner airlines to connect directly to domestic terminals 1 and 3. A team led by Chicago architect Jeanne Gang is designing the new global terminal.

Other developments

The airport recently completed work on the nearby Terminal 5 expansion after a five-year construction period. Also in Chicago, SOM is currently working on the replacement for 400 Lake Shore Drive in Streeterville.

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