Chicago Releases First Images of O’Hare Airport Expansion

Satellite Concourse 1 is set to open in 2028

Rendering for Satellite Concourse 1 at O’Hare International Airport
Here's your first look at the expanded O'Hare.
Rendering: SOM and Norviska

Renovating or expanding an airport can lead to short-term frustration and long-term satisfaction. Consider how NYC’s LaGuardia Airport went from a travel nightmare to a destination in its own right. Hundreds of miles to the west, another prominent U.S. airport is undergoing a renovation: O’Hare Airport’s ongoing O’Hare 21 project. Described as a “vision for a modern airport that will be an efficient and accessible international gateway to the world and Chicago,” that still begs the question of what that vision will look like. As of this week, we have our first answer.

Satellite Concourse 1 is the first of several large-scale components for the revamped airport, and its design comes from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) along with Ross Barney Architects, Juan Gabriel Moreno Architects (JGMA) and Arup. In a statement announcing the design — which includes newly released renderings — SOM Design Partner Scott Duncan spoke of creating a “frictionless experience for travelers.”

“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,” Duncan said. “We are excited for our team to lead the way on O’Hare 21 and to establish a new standard of excellence for O’Hare.”

Satellite Concourse 1 will add 19 gates to the airport, with the ability to accomodate aircraft of a variety of sizes. According to Ben Dreith at Dezeen, Satellite Concourse 1 will also be able to hold layover passengers. Construction on the facility has been underway since last year.

SOM revealed that their design for the space was inspired by the farmland and orchards that once occupied the space where the airport can now be found.

“[A] 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 studio wrote in a press release. Will these design choices make for a better travel experience? We’ll see in 2028, when Satellite Concourse 1 is expected to be completed.


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