United Airlines Terminal, O'Hare
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Architect Helmut Jahn
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Location Chicago, Illinois   map
Date 1985 to 1988   timeline
Building Type airport terminal
 Construction System exposed steel frame
Climate temperate
Context airport
Style Modern with Victorian references
Notes Includes a great tunnel with a long moving walkway through kinetic light & sound sculpture.


Photo, interior view down circulation axis

Photo, lights and sound in connecting tunnel



Axonometric Drawing

Lower Plan Drawing

Plan Drawing

Plan Drawing

Section Drawing

Section Drawing


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Discussion United Airlines Terminal, O'Hare Commentary

"The new terminal and satellite buildings for United Airlines at O'Hare International Airport will provide 42 new gates and approximately 1,000,000 square feet of space for new holdrooms, concourses, ticketing areas, concessions, flight operations, and attendant facilities. Terminal and satellite buildings form parallel concourses, each 1,500 feet long, with an 815-foot separation allowing for dual taxiing of wide-body aircraft. The terminal portion contains an upper-level ticketing pavilion adjacent to the existing roadway. A barrel-vaulted circulation spine extends the length of the 16-gate concourse at the back of the pavilion, with holdrooms paralleling this spine."

— from Nory Miller. Helmut Jahn. p147, 149.

The Creator's Words

"In a time when the direction of architecture is the subject of a great theoretical debate, its relationship to the past has emerged as a polemic issue. We see our work as an appropriate and innovative recomposition of classic and modern principles of the building arts. Rather than using form as quotations as orthodox duplications of a historic style, we seek conceptual relationships to response of a building to site and to context, entry and procession, spatiality, ornamentation, symbolic associations of historic forms. We synthesize these goals with intentions peculiar to a client, program, economics, efficiency and amenities of use and operation, and the possibilities of our age and its technology.

"...The alternatives are: 'Late Modernism', which remains within the restricted language of modernism, but exaggerates through extreme logic, emphasis on circulation, and expression of technical systems, and complex use of geometry and cubist aesthetics leading to abstract forms; 'Post-Modernism', a loose term for many fragmented efforts, which constitutes a body of thought in architecture concerned with history, contextualism and symbolism. ...Though many of these approaches have led to new solutions, they often fail on the level of a total architecture. They represent 'one-liners' without any synthesis with other approaches, and each approach leads to an end in itself. Our work is based on the belief that the modern movement is not dead, and its principles can be extended and continued. We look to our immediate past—which has now become a tradition—and also to our remote past for inspiration."

— Helmut Jahn. from Joachim Andreas Joedicke. Helmut Jahn: Design of a New Architecture. p9-10.


construction: 1985-88

Sources on United Airlines Terminal, O'Hare

Donald Corner and Jenny Young. Slide from photographer's collection. PCD.2260.1012.1841.029

Drawings courtesy of Helmut Jahn.

Joachim Andreas Joedicke. Helmut Jahn: Design of a New Architecture. New York: Nichols Publishing Company, 1986. ISBN 0-89397-265-7. LC 86-23482. NA737.J34J64 1987. discussion, p9-10.

Johnson Architectural Images. Copyrighted slides in the Artifice Collection.

Nory Miller. Helmut Jahn. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 1986. ISBN 0-8478-0561-1. LC 84-42787. NA737.J34M55 1986. section perspective drawing, f4, p147. freehand sketch design drawings, f1, p146. discussion p147, 149.

Toshino Nakamura, ed. "Buildings in Progress", A+U Extra Edition. June 1986. p221. drawing of basement floor plan, p226. drawing of main floor plan, p226. drawing of exploded section perspective, p227. axonometric drawing of structure, p227.

Kevin Matthews. The Great Buildings Collection on CD-ROM. Artifice, 2001. ISBN 0-9667098-4-5.— Available at Amazon.com

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