Heading to O’Hare airport at 4:30 am is always interesting, and today’s experience was no different. Traffic was heavy, and the snow was falling, creating mayhem at the curbside check in. After stepping into a puddle of slush I walked into the United Terminal to see a soaring wall of windows and beautiful arches of curved steel tubes. The three story open air structure of the terminal created an instant feeling of relaxation and openness, despite the hundreds of people milling around the terminal. Standing in the long security line, I couldn’t help but notice others looking above them at the beautiful tubes, adorned with flags from across the world, and glass placed to create a window to that world.
After making it through security, I was told my gate was in the “C” terminal which required me to travel underground on a moving walkway, below a portion of the Tarmac. Heading down the escalator I had a feeling of doom, thinking about walking 4 blocks beneath the airport. Again, I was pleasantly surprised by the curved tube structures along the ceiling and walls, colorfully accented by the colored lights. The slightly curved steel tubing ran the entire length of the ceiling, and again my eyes were drawn to them as the moving walkway carried me along to my gate. The United music played cheerfully in the background as the lights danced around the tubes, illuminating their smooth curves and movement. My in-airport experience at O’Hare Terminal 1, United, was enhanced by the strong, curvaceous tubes floating along the ceiling.
Certainly, as one of the busiest airports in the world, the number of passengers who witness the curved pipes and rolled beams over the course of a year is in the millions. Many people will be in a rush to get from one point to another, but great care has been taken to introduce the beautiful curved steel elements to the public here in Chicago. If having this much curved steel in one location is important to the architects of such an internationally recognized location, what does that say about the importance of curved steel around the world?