Great Glazing: Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Terminal 5


Photos by Steve Hall, Hedrich Blessing Photography

The basics: Architects of the Terminal 5 renovation at Chicago O’Hare International Airport looked to decorative glass for nearly 4,000 square feet of interior walls and partitions. The designers were looking for a durable, cost-effective solution to create panels that offered privacy and visual appeal.

"We were looking for durability ...without going over budget." said Tim Ozog, architectural designer for Epstein Architects. Goldray Industries introduced the designers to digitally ceramic printing on glass as a potential solution. "The full range of colors, high resolution, flexibility of application, and durability of digital ceramic printing made this technology the only solution for this project." 

Upon entering the terminal, travelers are greeted by a two-story interior curtain wall that blocks entry to private areas and directs foot traffic to the security checkpoint. The color bands and geometric shapes of the designed glass were printed in a gradient to ensure the flow of natural light without diminishing its privacy function. The wall was installed using clips instead of silicon to maintain the aesthetic quality of the design, which seamlessly continues onto the printed glass wall cladding. This provides an appealing backing to retail shops and demarcates the restrooms, according to officials from Dip-Tech. The digital ceramic printed glass guard rail on the upper level, which is seen by both arriving and departing passengers, creates a separation between these two groups while the highly detailed graphics convey a story of the traveler's experience.

The players: Architect, Epstein Architects; general contractor, James McHugh Construction Co.; glass manufacturer, PPG Industries; glass fabricator, Goldray Industries; contract glazier, Architectural Glass Works; digital printing technology, Dip-Tech; graphic designer, Thirst Communication Design 

The glass and systems: Terminal 5 features nearly 4,000 square feet of digital ceramic printed glass, comprised of PPG Starphire 9/16-inch laminated glass fabricated with Dip-Tech’s digital printing technology.

The Starphire glass panels fabricated by Goldray Industries, line up against one another and create a continuous image that shows the gradual changes in color and texture that can be seen when heading inland from Lake Michigan to Chicago and on to Illinois’ rural cornfields. The panels depict lakes, shallow shores, city buildings and farmland in a collage of rectangles and squares. The art was inspired by NASA satellite imagery.

Transparent rectangles filter natural light from windows and skylights without diminishing the curtainwall’s privacy function.