A Look Inside the Newly Complete Terminal 5 Expansion at O’Hare International Airport

Terminal 5 ExpansionRendering of terminal 5 Expansion by HOK / Muller2

Photos show the inside of the newly constructed Terminal 5 concourse extension at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, the keystone of its broader $1.2 billion expansion and renovation. This scheme is the first major overhaul of the terminal since its opening in 1993.

O'Hare Terminal 5 concourse extension

O’Hare Terminal 5 concourse extension. Photo by Jack Crawford

O'Hare Terminal 5 concourse extension

O’Hare Terminal 5 concourse extension. Photo by Jack Crawford

Terminal 5 Expansion

Terminal 5 Expansion. Rendering via HOK / Muller2

Led by the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA), the scope of upgrades includes 350,000 square feet of new floor space and the renovation of its existing 750,000 square feet of floor space. The improvements will increase terminal capacity by 25 percent while adding 10 new aircraft gates. The added interior space will include various new retail venues, dining options, passenger amenities, security lanes, and revamped baggage handling, re-done customs and immigration, and added domestic baggage carousels. Given that Delta is occupying part of the concourse, there will also be a new sprawling new Delta Sky Club, one of several located throughout O’Hare.

O'Hare Terminal 5 concourse extension

O’Hare Terminal 5 concourse extension. Photo by Jack Crawford

Terminal 5 Expansion

Terminal 5 Expansion. Rendering via HOK / Muller & Muller

HOK and Muller2 partnered with the CDA to design the concourse extension and other new areas of the terminal. The extension’s wing-shaped structure is clad in a white metal and glass facade. Inside, the design scheme retains the sleek white finish, accompanied by a vaulted ceiling and natural light wells. Juxtaposing with the angular massing of the concourse extension, there has also been the addition of a new cylindrical air traffic control tower with streamlined glass and metal cladding.O'Hare Terminal 5 concourse extension

O’Hare Terminal 5 concourse extension. Photo by Jack Crawford

O'Hare Terminal 5 concourse extension

O’Hare Terminal 5 concourse extension. Photo by Jack Crawford

O'Hare Terminal 5 concourse extension

O’Hare Terminal 5 concourse extension. Photo by Jack Crawford

The expansion will be linked to a new garage with 1,750 vehicles. Both of these new structures are expected to complete by 2024. While impressive, Terminal 5’s costs are just a fraction of the $8.5 billion initiative known as O’Hare 21, signifying the airport’s massive overhaul to meet 21st-century needs.

O'Hare Global Terminal

O’Hare Global Terminal. Rendering by Studio Gang

O'Hare Global Terminal

O’Hare Global Terminal. Rendering by Studio Gang

The largest piece of this masterplan is the new O’Hare Global Terminal, designed by Studio Gang and set to encompass 2.2 million square feet. The undulating concourse’s footprint will take on a “Y” shape to symbolize the confluence of the Chicago River. Inside, the terminal will stand in contrast to Terminal 5 with its wood-clad interior, pleated ceiling, and supporting Y columns.

Work has been carried out by Austin Power Partners, a joint venture comprised of Austin Commercial, Power Construction, and Ujamaa Construction. FH Paschen has also been involved as a subcontractor to the construction. With Delta having just moved its operations to a section of the new concourse, the terminal is now partially in-service. Additional interior build-outs are currently underway, expected to last into 2023. The remainder of O’Hare 21 is expected to complete by 2028.

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33 Comments on "A Look Inside the Newly Complete Terminal 5 Expansion at O’Hare International Airport"

  1. What is the thing on four legs right in the middle of the concourse in the second last picture?

  2. I love the way it turned out, but I bet people with trypophobia will hate it hahaha!

  3. Please let’s invite the LaGuardia architects before it’s too late.

  4. It’s fine I guess. Looks a little chunky and 70s-like

  5. looks more like a future TSA TURRET….

  6. I have flown twice out of the new terminal 5. The design is better, but the restaurants are still poor quality and the lounges are never open or full….which leads to a bad experience. At the least they should start letting you walk with your beer. C’mon man!

  7. So happy to see this… O’Hare is by far the worst aiport in the USA now that LaGuardia has completed it’s upgrade. To be honest, even LaGuardia’s old C & D concourses where better than current councourses at O’Hare.

    With Austin Powers on the job, this is going to be shagadelic baby.

    • Then you must not fly much. ORD allows movement between T1,T2,T3 all behind security. PHX does not allow that. CLT is massively overcrowded and ATL is exceptionally poorly laid out. LAX is an organizational disaster and JFK is difficult to get in and out of. ORD is quite solid in every aspect.

  8. Happy to see upgrades at O’Hare, which is probably the worst airport in the USA. As a business traveler who flys from LGA to ORD monthly, I know first hand. I’m also a Delta million miler, so even more excited this new terminal will be my new boarder area.

  9. I flew out of Terminal 5 last week. If O’Hare is going to utilize it more (as the Delta move and expansion suggest), they need to make it more accessible from CTA. Right now, you need to make a poorly-marked journey that includes climbing a flight of stairs, a long walk (crossing under the drop off road), climbing three more flights of stairs, crossing a sky bridge (back over the drop off road), descending a flight of stairs, catching a ride on the Airport Transit System, then climbing another flight of stairs. All of that is before you even check your bags or wait in the 45 minute security line.

    I don’t know all the logistics, but it seems like the easiest solution would be adding an elevator from the pedestrian tunnel directly to the Terminal 2 ATS station. Another option would be adding a new CTA station with a long tunnel or bridge.

    It’s odd that they didn’t add the elevator while the ATS was getting overhauled. The charitable explanation is that the layout doesn’t allow for it. The uncharitable explanation is they just don’t care about CTA riders. The sinister explanation is they want to make more money off the new parking garages by encouraging driving.

    I’m fairly new to Chicago. Is this something that’s been discussed?

    • Or maybe they want to keep the homeless folks out of their shiny new terminal.

    • From the CTA station, turn left and take the pedestrian tunnel in front of Elevator Center 4. At the end of the pedestrian tunnel (this is the tunnel that goes past the Hilton convenience store and the barber shop), there is an elevator. I don’t think this elevator goes all the way to the bridge level for the ATS? You may have to get off and go to your right to transfer elevators. The ATS elevator is in the middle of baggage claim & ticketing and has a button that says “bridge”.

      You’re right, the CTA station is most convenient if you’re flying out of terminals 1, 2 or 3. Less convenient for 5 but still doable if you’re up for more walking.

  10. Steve River North | October 26, 2022 at 11:10 am | Reply

    Any word on the Terminal 1 Satellites? I believe they are next.

    • Have not seen a date but you are correct they are next. Satellites will be completed before current T2 is fully demolished in order to keep gate capacity up during construction of the global terminal.

  11. Looks so sterile. Some wood, trees, plants or color would help. Reading how not accessible it is to CTA is sad and obviously on purpose as Chicago continues to no invest in public transport

    • While that is a fair enough complaint it would be best to make some sort of pedestrian tunnel connection or below grade tram connection airside from the (new) terminal 2 when built and terminal 5.

      Building a CTA extension to terminal 5 would be a bit of waste considering how long have to exit and enter the station with luggage at the CTA Terminal 2 station currently.

      If we don’t address the airside connectivity then T5 will STILL have exit roadside, take the ATA train, and then reenter at T1/T2/T3 which is WAYYY more inconveient then what you are complaining about.

  12. What are you talking about? The pictures are all of the proposed, yet TJ begin construction, new Terminal 2! They have been renovating terminal 5, but that’s not what any of those pics are of. Terminal 2 will be the new international terminal when done.

  13. Looks a bit cold in my opinion Perhaps they should have folded in some of the wood materials from the main buildings design.

  14. Sure would have been nice if they would have thought about having food vendors in place before they opened the terminal and possibly have more than 10 seats at Gate 33 for the plane load of people departing from there. But on the brighter side the thousands of extra steps required to make it down to Gate 33 was a benefit to my health.

  15. First I need to say that I love just about everything Chicago and that I had never been in Terminal 5 until last week as I flew in and out of O’Hare on Southwest. Yes, Southwest and Delta are in Terminal 5. Well, I wasn’t super impressed with the new addition and can see why others are less then thrilled with Terminal 5 OG. The new space is expansive with big open areas but at the same time very stark and sterile. That said I did enjoy looking up at the lights and their alignment but that enjoyment didn’t last long. I will say that the terminal is not complete and will hope that once fully completed it will have a better feel. Maybe it had to do with the amount of people in the space which was very few. I actually find the toher terminals exciting when they are bustling with people. I’m probably one of the few that enjoy flying in and out of O’Hare but just not feeling it with Terminal 5. I’m also looking forward to the construction of Terminal 2 and hope it looks close to the renderings.

  16. T5 ext: Horrible architecture, boring and clumsy. Such bottom of the barrel quality and sad it now introduces visitors to our city. Can the City wake up and deliver something good? We have great history in architecture but now have lost our way.

    • Other than early Mies, and two SOM buildings, and the Renzo Museum, what other great work of architecture exists in Chicago?

  17. I flew out of Terminal 5 to Stockholm a few weeks ago and as much as I love seeing expansion and new construction, I didn’t love how this one is laid out. Yeah, the high ceiling are great, but the design seems bit outdated in my opinion. I think they failed on this one.

  18. Sharon Rossiter | November 21, 2022 at 7:31 pm | Reply

    It’s beautiful but, we walked and walked and walked from Gate 35! … People mover walkways only move in one direction. There are few accommodations for the elderly and disabled. We will avoid airlines at Terminal 5 until those issues are addresses.

  19. We flew out of Terminal 5 late last year, and will avoid it as much as possible going forward. There was a single security checkpoint for an entire terminal serving several major airlines…the line was over an hour long. I found the design of the spaces leading to the terminal to be very sterile, only with grays, and lots of white. Hopefully when the art is installed it will help some.

  20. Drew Simmons | May 9, 2023 at 1:58 pm | Reply

    Just about the dumbest improvement project at an airport that I have ever witnessed. As I park my jet at this idiotic terminal 5 on a regular basis I am appalled that this was the intended design. I watch passengers aged 60+ walk about 1-1/2 miles to the nearest customs and immigration checkpoint of the entire other side of the stupid terminal. The geniuses that designed this could have put a satellite customs and immigration checkpoint on the far east side but NOOOOOO they actually designed the 1-1/2 mile walk for our aged passengers. By FAR the worst experience of any international terminal I have even utilized…world wide! Unbelievable that we call ourselves “enlightened” when one witnesses this level of intended stupidity.

  21. Glen Washington | November 12, 2023 at 1:23 am | Reply

    Just arriving domestically is a long long walk. For the persons who designed this, their hell should be to have to arrive on a southwest flight late at night and have to do this walk every night of eternity. The moving walkways only go in one direction because the intend 40 years ago was that the upper levels would be for outbound international flights only

  22. Who cares about fancy design and artwork when the entire expansion is impractical and a miserable experience. It’s at least a 20-minute walk from the single security checkpoint to the end of the new part of terminal where the Southwest flights depart. Make that a 30-minute walk with children. There are two short moving walkways heading to departures that save maybe one minute of time. There are zero moving walkways for arrivals to get to the exit/baggage claim area. If you are elderly or have mobility/accessibility challenges, this expansion was not built with you in mind. The old part of T5 is stifling hot with poor circulation and a narrow corridor. The new part of T5 is freezing, there are only vending machines for food, and the brand-new seats are cheap and don’t have chargers – I had to plug in my laptop into an outlet in the floor and then keep an eye out because it created a tripping hazard. Oh, and Ubers and Lyfts are not allowed to pick up at T5 anymore, so make sure to add even more timem to make your way outside to the airport transit system to get to T2 for your pickup. If this is Chicago’s idea of the “airport of the future,” it has completely missed the mark.

  23. The new terminal 5 at O’Hare is “terminal”. Designers should be spanked. Miserably LONG walk with NO moving walkways for arrivals. Also a big gap in baggage signage around gate 15 area. You’re not sure if you need to walk another 1/2 mile or not. Please provide golf carts for us old folks. It’s almost 3/4 mile from gate 35 to baggage.
    Poor waste of our $.

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