United Airlines

Gate of the Future 
O'Hare International Airport
105,000 SF | Chicago, IL

A space connected to United’s brand story: an airline where Good Leads the Way.

United Airlines’ new, streamlined Gate of the Future—a prototype setting the pace for 50 additional gates under construction at other locations—features an enhanced traveler experience at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. The future-forward design focuses on comfort, ease, warm approachability, inclusivity, brand, visual engagement, and technological empowerment for United’s travelers.

Through the lens of diversity, inclusivity, and sustainability, the design is based on the way people navigate space, specifically highly trafficked public spaces as well as the overall user experience.

A thoughtful selection and application of materials, lighting cues, and planning tactics create a human-centric design that supports the entire community of travelers. Pre-design preparation included meeting with groups visually and hearing impaired as well as those with varying physical and cognitive abilities.

At the front of the gate, welcome stations with kiosks using advanced technology let travelers interact directly with United to accomplish a variety of tasks from booking flights and printing boarding passes to asking questions, with access to a live agent if needed.

For easy recognition, the adjacent flight-flow monitor identifies and provides information about current arriving or departing flights. Digital displays positioned against a band of United-brand blue along the gate perimeter just below the ceiling offer information about other flights and United conveniences. With the emphasis on self-service for traveler ease, the traditional check-in desk, now a small podium, is more a host station for United staff.

Supported by extensive posture studies and geared to diverse preferences and a range of abilities, the innovative design creates options from lounge settings for families and groups to solo seating for individual travelers. Silicon upholstery that is PVS-free, anti-graffiti, and anti-microbial/fungal, ensures hygiene, longevity, and high performance.

Design features guide wayfinding and flow providing traffic control. Patterned flooring materials, certified carbon neutral for sustainability, intuitively guide travelers. The positioning of furniture and features defines boarding and access cues, avoiding the traditional use of stanchions.

For traveler engagement at designated landmark gates, an 8-foot-tall, custom-millwork wall in United-brand blue shaped like a boomerang, features a large LED screen and graphics displaying a map of Chicago landmarks. Faux airplane windows along the structure’s reverse side highlight the landmarks. For special events or marketing the wall becomes a themed/informative backdrop. Overhead, an art installation of United blue and white lights suspended from the ceiling celebrates brand.

Learn more at IA’s Neocon webinar recording.

Photography by © Patsy McEnroe

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