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Type: Infrastructure, Transportation

Size: 23,000 sq ft / 2,140 sq m

Tracks: 3

Status: Completed 1987

Recognition: AIA National Honor Award; NEA Presidential Design Award

The O’Hare Rapid Transit Station is the last station of the CTA’s Blue Line, completing the light rail connection between Chicago’s Loop and the Chicago O’Hare International Airport. The new station was constructed beneath the existing O’Hare Airport parking structure and consists of the train station and a pedestrian concourse linking the station to the airport hotel and Terminals 1, 2, and 3.

The 600-foot-long train station measures 70 feet wide by 30 feet high and contains three tracks and two passenger platforms. To create the desired column-free platforms, large post-tensioned concrete girders were deployed to transfer the load of the parking structure columns across the entire width of the train station. The construction technique used open-cut excavation that created sloping, concrete-covered beams running the entire length of the station.

The void that resulted between the station’s glass block walls and concrete beams was used as a giant “lightbox” to illuminate the undulating station walls. The faces of the beams are painted in a color sequence that subtly changes as travelers move through the station. The passenger’s sense of movement is further heightened with the changing transparency of the glass block — it is most dense in the middle of the station and becomes more transparent at either end to articulate a passenger’s arrival and departure.

The station’s design concept is simple and bold, and the O’Hare Rapid Transit Station has become a well-loved and memorable space in Chicago’s urban fabric.

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James R. Thompson Center

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