O’Hare International Airport Terminal 1 / Chicago, Illinois/ 1984‑1988
Size: 1,400,000 sq ft / 130,060 sq m
Status: Completed 1988
Recognition: AIA Chicago Chapter Award; AIA National Honor Award; AIA Chicago Chapter Divine Detail Award; AIA Chicago Chapter Twenty‑Five Year Award; Structural Engineering Association of Illinois; R.S. Reynolds Memorial Award; Annual Design Review ‑ "Best of Category," Industrial Design Magazine; Quaternario, International Award for Innovative Technology in Architecture; AISC Award; Ten Best Works of American Architecture since 1980
United Airlines’ Terminal 1 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is the airline’s flagship terminal as well as its primary hub. Completed in 1988, Terminal 1 established a new prototype for the next generation of airport terminals around the world. With 50 domestic gates and 1.4 million square feet of area, it serves 400 aircraft per day carrying over 40,000 passengers. The dramatic passenger spaces, efficient landside and airside operations, and the world’s largest automated baggage handling systems have made Terminal 1 an internationally recognized example of advanced terminal design.
The planning concept used for Terminal 1 is that of a ticketing/baggage claim pavilion with two parallel concourses that facilitate easy aircraft circulation and maximize aircraft parking positions — items crucial for an efficient hub operation. The departing passenger enters the check-in hall where skylights in the 120-foot free-span roof create a light and airy environment. After security, the passengers enter the 50-foot high vaulted corridor of Concourse B where skylights wrap the concourse enclosure. The abundant natural light combined with lively retail and the bustle of passengers make travelers feel as if they are walking down a city street.
Separated by aircraft parking and taxiways from the main terminal complex, the remote Concourse C is connected by an underground pedestrian walkway to the main terminal and Concourse B. This walkway features a dazzling display of color, sound, and light that transcends that typical tunnel experience, conveying passengers between the concourses in an effortless and enjoyable manner. Adjacent to this walkway lies United’s underground baggage handling facility, the largest of its kind in the world.