Airport Landscape: ORD: Documenting the Definitive Modern Airport
October 30, 2013–December 19, 2013
Charles Waldheim, curator
In the second half of the twentieth century, Chicago’s O’Hare Airport was the biggest and busiest facility of its kind in the world. Characterized by a seamless integration of transportation infrastructure and architectural expression, O’Hare quickly emerged as an international model for the jet-age airport. The design team, led by C. F. Murphy Associates, integrated innovative design strategies such as the movable jetway bridge, two-tiered entryway drive, linear unit terminal building, and central parking garage. Each of these strategies differed markedly from contemporaneous solutions developed for comparable jet-age airports. These design decisions shaped the definitive typology of the modern airport.
ORD juxtaposes animation of O’Hare’s airspace on the busiest travel day of the year with diverse documentary evidence from the airport’s history. Hedrich Blessing’s iconic images from the early 1960s describe the second Chicago school modernism of the city’s largest public works project. Robert Burley’s photographs of the mid-1980s describe O’Hare’s operational airfield as a complex managed landscape. The exhibition includes Tandem Sling Seating as an example of design produced originally for O’Hare. Designed by Charles and Ray Eames with Herman Miller, Tandem Sling Seating has been adopted widely by other airports, becoming an international icon of air travel.
ORD describes O’Hare in multiple contexts beginning with the history of Orchard Place, the farming village that would lend its name to O’Hare’s three-letter location-identifier code. Equally evident are the airfield’s origins in civic boosterism and military expediency; politics and patronage in Chicago’s largest architectural commission; the spatial and organizational innovations in O’Hare’s design; and the airport’s role in the decentralization of the city.
FEATURING ORD AIRSPACE ANIMATIONS BY ROBERT GERARD PIETRUSKO IN COLLABORATION WITH URBAN AGENCY
SPECIAL THANKS TO THE GRAHAM FOUNDATION/CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM/HERMAN MILLER/SONJA DÜMPELMANN/DAN BORELLI/DAVID ZIMMERMAN-STUART/FADI MASOUD/NASHID NABIAN/ALLEN SAYEGH/SIENA SCARFF DESIGN/CHICAGO O’HARE/CHARLES WALDHEIM