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O'Hare's orchard past inspires renderings for future design

Renderings for new O'Hare design reveal "orchard" inspiration
Renderings for new O'Hare design reveal "orchard" inspiration 02:56

CHICAGO (CBS) — The public is getting a new look at a plan to modernize O'Hare International Airport.

The massive project called O'Hare 21 has been in the works for years.

On Tuesday, city leaders helped unveil new renderings of a crucial project phase.

New architectural renderings give a glimpse of what could be the O'Hare of the future. The design is inspired by what was here long before the airport.

"The airport's code, ORD, is a reference to the orchard fields that once filled the site," said Ryan Culligan of Skidmore Owing & Merrill. 

With all the stress of travel, most people aren't thinking about trees, but architects want travelers to notice nature as they move through a modernized O'Hare.

"Passengers will be connected with landscapes native to the Chicagoland region, offering a rare opportunity to relax in nature at an airport," said Culligan.

New renderings reveal what travelers can expect from the future satellite concourse one.

"This is a once-in-a-generation expansion. The modernization of O'Hare, which comes at an unprecedented time," said Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson.

It's one part of a massive O'Hare overhaul that includes the construction of two new concourses, a new global terminal, and an underground tunnel connecting everything together.

"This is a new chapter for O'Hare. It's a new chapter for the City of Chicago and the entire region," Johnson said.

Satellite Concourse One will extend from the existing Concourse C – adding 19 new gates with the flexibility to accommodate different-sized aircraft.

"This concourse is designed to adapt with the times as the city evolves and the needs change for O'Hare," said Culligan.

When visitors see the new ORD, the design team wants them to think of the "orchard."

"Our design, as you can see in some of the renderings unveiled today, is inspired by these orchards with rows of tree-like columns that create clear lines of sight for travelers while enabling flexibility for the airlines throughout the boarding process," Culligan said.

Initial work on satellite Concourse One started in the spring, and construction will continue until at least 2028.

Years of work. Before O'Hare feels like the oasis of an architect's design. 

"Dappled light will fall from skylights above, filtering through the rows of tree columns, creating a pleasant and evenly illuminated space," Culligan said. 

Three Chicago-based firms, including the architects behind the Willis Tower and Hancock Building, are leading work on Satellite Concourse One.

The city said the project will create more than 3,800 construction jobs.

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