The City of Chicago has revealed the design for the first phase of the kerb-to-gate transformation of O’Hare International Airport


Mayor Brandon Johnson and the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) have revealed the design for the Satellite One Concourse at O’Hare International Airport, the first new building in the ambitious Terminal Area Program (TAP).

Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) with Ross Barney Architects, Juan Gabriel Moreno Architects (JGMA), and Arup, the concourse will be the first new building in the largest concourse area expansion and revitalisation in the airport’s 68-year history.

“On behalf of Mayor Johnson, I thank SOM, JGMA and Ross Barney Architects for their incredible partnership over the past five years,” said Commissioner Jamie L Rhee of the Chicago Department of Aviation (DA). “The designs showcase the result of that work, and the firms’ continued commitment to meet the City’s budget expectations while still delivering a design that all of Chicago can be proud of.”


A frictionless experience

As one of the first domestic-international codeshare concourses in Chicago, Satellite One is designed to flexibly accommodate different aircraft bodies, increasing operational efficiency for carriers as well as layover passengers. “We designed the new satellite concourse to create a frictionless experience for travellers, on par with the best airports in the world,” said SOM design partner Scott Duncan. “The gate lounges feature column-free expanses for easy wayfinding, high ceilings to improve views and air circulation, and a daylighting strategy to help align the body's natural rhythms – all to make the experience of air travel more pleasurable.”

The design was inspired by the orchard that gave O’Hare its original name
The design was inspired by the orchard that gave O’Hare its original name SOM and Norviska


The SOM-led team was selected in 2019 to design the airport's two satellite terminals as part of an international design competition, and will be the first team to break ground. In spite of the many challenges of COVID to the airline and construction industries, the design for Satellite 1 is currently under budget and on track for construction, with on-site work on the airfield to prepare for construction already underway. 

“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.



Sense of place

Inspired by the orchard that gave O’Hare its original name (“Orchard Field”), a tree-like structural system inside the Concourse eliminates almost half the columns at the gates, reducing congestion and enabling more efficient boarding and improved visibility for passengers.

According to SOM, the modern design is uniquely tuned 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 minimises 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 will drop passengers in an atrium, where connecting or departing passengers can relax in a garden-like setting flooded with daylight from an oculus skylight above. Carefully selected materials throughout the interior extend this natural palette, offering warmth and acoustic absorption.

“It’s an honour to expand on our work at Concourse C to continue to improve the campus of O’Hare, and to work with SOM, Ross Barney Architects, and Arup to design a dignified passenger experience for the city and visitors to Chicago,” said Juan Moreno, president and founder of Juan Gabriel Moreno Architects.


The design was inspired by the orchard that gave O’Hare its original name
The design was inspired by the orchard that gave O’Hare its original name SOM and Norviska