Rethinking ORD: O'Hare Super Strip

Rethinking ORD: O'Hare Super Strip

O’Hare is in the midst of a $15 billion modernization push, but that could just be the start of a more urbane reconception of the site as a regional destination.
Courtesy Google Earth

Super strip proposes an ambitious rethinking of the airport as a multi-programmed urban landscape (click to zoom).

This proposal for O’Hare Airport in Chicago takes the current $15 billion O’Hare Modernization Program (OMP) as a starting point to imagine the airport not just as a transportation terminal but as a multi-programmed urban landscape that caters to travelers as well as a regional and local population that comes to the airport to shop, play, and work. A subsurface mega-strip formed by the new parallel runway configuration stretches across the 3 1/2-mile width of the airfield, connecting the existing airport terminals on the east side of the airfield with the proposed new terminal on the western edge. The strip hosts three large program clusters that aggregate around the terminals, linked by the CTA blue line, which, with the highway, is extended across the strip and into the city’s Northwest suburbs.

East Zone
Research of route flow shows that 34 percent of flights in and out of O’Hare are to destinations within a 1 1/2-hour radius of Chicago. Given the high demand for regional connections, the east cluster zone by Terminal 5, the international terminal, provides for a large high-speed rail interchange with other metropolitan transportation connections supported by hotels and conference facilities and a regional commuter university.

Mid Zone
Positioning amenities underground acknowledges safety measures imposed by air traffic control and flight paths and also provides acoustic isolation. Large voids are carved out of the thickened strip to allow light and air into the subterranean spaces. For example, a central void in the “mid-cluster zone” hosts one of the primary collective spaces of the project, a 45-acre public park that acts as a gateway from the lower level parking layer to Terminals 1, 2, and 3, the airport’s busiest spaces.

West Zone
Since 1996, the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission has spent $435 million on noise abatement programs in the surrounding neighborhoods to address the significant and dangerous noise levels in and around O’Hare. The program cluster on the west edge of the strip is zoned for institutional use and accommodates the schools, religious institutions, and community programs currently located on the periphery of the airfield in areas above the FAA’s 65 DNL (Day-Night Average Sound Level). The cluster is linked to parking and the CTA, allowing easy access to outlying residential areas.

Super Strip is a both a practical and visionary model that presents the airport as an integrated metropolitan ecosystem. Smart programming initiatives respond to the very real problems—noise, pollution, and expansion—associated with airport facilities, while incorporating parallel transportation systems ensures that the airport operates as an efficient crossover between regional, national, and global territories. Together, these amplify O’Hare’s significance as one of the primary transportation landscapes in the Great Lakes region.