City reveals shortlist of architects vying to design $8.5B O’Hare expansion

After receiving bids from twelve groups that included some of the planet’s top architectural talent, Chicago has narrowed its search down to five teams hoping to design a $8.5 billion terminal expansion of O’Hare International Airport.

The bid shortlist is headlined by local giant Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), Chicago-based Studio Gang, Spanish-born starchitect Santiago Calatrava, London’s Foster + Partners, and Colorado-based Fentress Architects. The Foster bid is supplemented by additional Chicago talent from Epstein and JGMA while the Studio Gang-headed effort partners with designers at Corgan Associates, STL Architects, and Solomon Cordwell Buenz.

Perhaps equally impressive is the number of architectural heavyweights comprising the seven bids that did not make the cut. Notable names left off the shortlist include Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Perkins+Will, HOK, Gensler, Grimshaw Architects, Studio Fuksas, FGP Atelier, Goettsch Partners, and Rafael Viñoly.

Arguably most surprising is the exclusion of Chicago’s own Helmut Jahn, whose eponymous firm designed O’Hare’s iconic two-concourse Terminal 1. Passing over a local team with such close ties to the existing airport suggests officials have a desire to take O’Hare in a “new architectural direction,” wrote Chicago Tribune columnist Blair Kamin.

The mayor’s announcement came at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new multi-modal facility at O’Hare’s eastern edge. Designed by Ross Barney Architects, the 2.5-million-square-foot facility consolidates rental car operations and includes 2,600 additional parking spaces.

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