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City unveils 5 designs for huge new O’Hare terminal

Terminal proposal from Fentress-EXP-Brook-Garza | Courtesy of the City of Chicago

One looks like a fluttering kite; another has a roof that resembles a blister pill pack.

And none of the five proposals for the planned $8.5 billion Global Terminal at O’Hare Airport — probably much to the relief of generations of travelers — resemble any of the current terminals.

The new terminal, which will occupy about 2.25 million square feet, will replace the current Terminal 2. “The terminal that was literally opened when the Cold War was going,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel noted during the unveiling at Chicago Architecture Center downtown.

Jeanne Gang, perhaps best known for the Aqua Tower downtown with its rippling facade, is among the five. The design, the least swoopy of all the entries, will be “elegant and efficient,” with “”abundant green space,” according to Gang’s firm.

Spaniard Santiago Calatrava, who designed the Milwaukee Art Museum, is another architect being considered. Calatrava may be best known here for the corkscrew-like design for the Chicago Spire, a skyscraper that — had it been built — would have been the city’s tallest.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s design, arguably the least eye-catching, has a vast “elegantly undulating” rectangular roof.

The new terminal is expected to be “largely funded by our our airline partners,” said Department of Aviation Commissioner Jamie Rhee.

The new terminal, which is set to open in 2028, will be home to United Airlines and American Airlines — both domestic and international flights — as well as their partner airlines, city officials said.

“With this new Terminal 2 at the center of the airport, arriving passengers will be able to exit immigration faster and connect to other flights with ease,” Rhee said, speaking at the City Club of Chicago Thursday.

It’s expected to be among the largest airport terminals in the nation.

The city is also soliciting the public’s input through Jan. 23 in selecting the final design for the terminal. To vote, go to: