Santiago Calatrava among finalists to design O’Hare expansion

A dozen groups applied in September to head up the $8.7B airport overhaul

O’Hare International Airport and Santiago Calatrava (Credit: iStock and Getty Images)
O’Hare International Airport and Santiago Calatrava (Credit: iStock and Getty Images)

Santiago Calatrava and famed Chicago architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill joined three other groups on the shortlist to head the city’s planned $8.7 billion expansion of O’Hare Airport.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Chicago managing partner Jonathan Stein

The final five applications, narrowed down from 12, also include three joint ventures of architecture firms that teamed up on their applications, according to a Wednesday announcement from Mayor Emanuel’s office.

A venture of Fentress Architects, EXP, Brook Architecture and Garza Architects also made it to the final round. Foster Epstein Moreno JV Joint Venture Partners and Studio ORD 
Joint Venture Partners are also being considered.

City aviation leaders plan to award contracts to two companies. The first-place team will design the new terminal, and the runner-up will design a pair of new satellite concourses. The city will solicit public feedback over the next few months before they announce a winner.

Among Calatrava’s designs is the 365,000-square-foot train station in Lower Manhattan known as the Oculus.

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The station, which opened two years ago, cost $4 billion, exceeding its budget by $2 billion, in part because of security measures following the 9/11 terror attacks.

A dozen groups applied before the September deadline to lead the airport overhaul, which is set to rebuild the aging Terminal 2 and add gates to the international terminal.

Calatrava is known locally as the architect behind the Chicago Spire, which would have been the city’s tallest building had the project not fizzled during the recession.

Founded in Chicago in 1939, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill is now known for designing the towering Burj Khalifa in Dubai and One World Trade Center in New York. Related Midwest and Sterling Bay have also respectively tapped the firm for The 78 and Lincoln Yards, two Chicago mega-projects that could combine for tens of millions of square feet of new interior space over the coming decades.

Perkins+Will, another prominent Chicago-based design firm, did not make the cut.

Vacancies are low and rents are on the rise in the booming suburbs around O’Hare, as insatiable industrial developers rush to get in before the airport expansion is complete.

In September, the O’Hare area was home to three of the region’s five top investment sales, combining for about $262 million.