Five teams of architects make short-list to design the new O’Hare Airport

SHARE Five teams of architects make short-list to design the new O’Hare Airport

O’Hare International Airport is once again the nation’s busiest. | File photo

On the day he pulled the plug on his own re-election bid, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he wanted to pick an architect to design his $8.7 billion O’Hare Airport expansion project.

He made that one of four things he wanted to accomplish before leaving office in May, along with finishing the Lakefront bike and running paths, nailing down an O’Hare express contract with Elon Musk and expanding the international baccalaureate program at Chicago Public Schools.

The selection of an architect to design the new O’Hare can’t be scratched of the mayor’s list just yet. But it’s getting closer to that point.

Five teams of world-renowned architects were notified Tuesday that they have made the city’s short list.

The teams include: Fentress-EXP-Brook-Garza Joint Venture Partners; Foster Epstein Moreno JV Joint Venture Partners; Santiago Calatrava LLC; Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill (SOM); and Studio ORD Joint Venture Partners.

The five finalists will move on to a “request for proposals” process that requires them to submit a “design model that will be showcased at various locations throughout the city.”

Public feedback generated by those models will be “taken into consideration” when the final decision is made by a selection committee composed of transportation, business and civic leaders.

The selection process will also take into account “technical advisories” from leading architectural firms, cultural and academic institutions and local businesses, according to a press release issued by the mayor’s office.

“Through this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the city of Chicago is inviting the global design community as well as the voices of residents to enhance the future of Chicago-O’Hare,” Aviation Commissioner Jamie Rhee was quoted as saying.

“As we work to elevate O’Hare to compete globally, we have asked teams for a commitment to mentoring small local firms, too. In doing so, our goal is to involve Chicago’s business community in an unmatched opportunity to gain valuable experience on a project of international proportions.”

The mayor’s plan calls for demolishing Terminal 2 and replacing it with a new “global terminal” shared by United and American Airlines that would accept both domestic and international flights.

The massive, multi-year makeover also calls for dozens of new gates and additional concourses.

O’Hare would become the first so-called “global alliance hub” in the nation; it will allow domestic airlines and the international carriers with which those domestic airlines partner to occupy the same terminal.

No longer would passengers connecting to international flights endure the delay and inconvenience of having to ride the O’Hare People Mover to the international terminal.

In a city known around the world for its outstanding architecture, Emanuel said it made sense to ask “the world’s best designers to help carry out our vision for the new O’Hare Global Terminal, the key to a bigger, better and more modern O’Hare.”

“As we look ahead to O’Hare’s future — we won’t forget Chicago’s legacy of architecture and transportation,” the mayor was quoted as saying.

“By the end of this competition, we will change the trajectory of O’Hare forever, and ensure Chicago remains a leading hub for travelers around the world.”

Santiago Calatrava’s 2,000-foot-tall Chicago Spire never did get built, thanks to a recession that had nothing to do with his spectacular design.

But Calatrava will leave his mark on Chicago, nevertheless. The Spanish architect, structural engineer, sculptor, painter and all-around Renaissance man was chosen last spring to create an outdoor sculpture to be installed at developers’ expense in the park at River Point, the 52-story office tower at Lake and Canal that includes a 1.5-acre public park over rail lines.

Calatrava was so moved by the commission — and viewed the sculpture such an important contribution to one of the architectural capitals of the world — he made the trip to Chicago for the official announcement.

“You are the city that introduced public art. And you have more than 1,000 pieces of art in the streets of Chicago. Calder, Picasso, Miro, Kapoor … and many many other artists,” Calatrava said on that day.

“To have a contribution to this collection of public art that is accessible to everybody, accessible any time of the day and enhancing your city, one of the most beautiful architectural cities of the 19th to 21st Century,” is a tremendous honor…I am enormously moved and I was very, very motivated with my entry for this place, in my opinion, one of the very, very significant places of the art world.”

Emanuel described his lunch with Calatrava preceding that news conference as an “incredible hour of learning about cities, architecture, art, the growth of cities and also [Calatrava’s] own career.”

“It was actually the first college credit I got without having to pay for it,” the mayor joked at the time.

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