Submitted by WA Contents

Amazon opens its tree-filled spherical headquarters in downtown Seattle

United States - Feb 7, 2018 - 06:33   6210 views

American electronic commerce and cloud computing company Amazon has opened its hotly-anticipated headquarters in downtown Seattle, where there are no enclosed offices, conference spaces, or desks.

Amazon's newest Seattle HQ, designed by American architecture office NBBJ, introduces a unique working environment where employees can meet in treehouses suspended under 12+ meter (40+ foot) trees or in sitting areas and walking paths alongside cascading waterfalls.

Named The Spheres, the project is comprised of a trio of glass spherical volumes that are filled with plants, trees, sunlight, soil, and water  – the sound of running water and the scent of flowering plants create an instant botanical immersion that takes visitors far away from the urban landscape.

Image © Sean Airhart/NBBJ

Housing more than 40,000 plants from around the world, the company provides a special working place where Amazon employees can work in an environment that’s more like a tropical rainforest in the clouds than an office.

Officially opened to the public on January 29, 2018, John Schoettler, Amazon Vice President of Global Real Estate and Facilities, said that "our goal with The Spheres was to create a unique gathering place where employees could collaborate and innovate together, and where the Seattle community could gather to experience biodiversity in the center of the city."

“I am very proud and thankful to the entire team who made The Spheres a reality – they did a terrific job from the design all the way to the finishing touches. We are thrilled to officially open the doors.”

Image © Sean Airhart/NBBJ

The company aimed to increase productivity and creativity of employees in the offices and to change the typical character of office spaces, compared to traditional office designs that are not connected to urban flora. With this innovative character of office space, the company's new Seattle HQ embraces the concept of "biophilic design" that can inspire creativity and even improve brain function.

Image © Sean Airhart/NBBJ

The Spheres, receiving more than $4 billion investment in the design, development, and construction, feature treehouse meeting rooms, river and waterfall features, paludariums, a four-story living wall, and epiphytic trees. 

The building house more than 400 species taken from five continents and 50 countries, and many of the plants have journeyed from botanical gardens, tree nurseries, and conservation programs from around the globe.

Alexa helps officially open The Spheres. Image © Jordan Stead/Amazon

Many of the plants inside The Spheres are from cloud forest ecosystems, where plants thrive on mountainsides at an altitude ranging from 3,000 to 10,000 feet. Plants in these ecosystems have adapted to cooler temperatures, which makes their climate needs comfortable for people, too.

Creating a green beauty and biodiversity inside The Spheres, the project will also provide educational opportunities to the Seattle community through tours, field trips and partnerships with local schools and universities. 

"The Spheres also include a visitor center – called The Understory – that is open to the public year round. The Understory provides a fully immersive, 360-degree experience where visitors can get up close and personal with the science, engineering, and plants behind The Spheres," said Amazon in a statement.

"The Spheres are sure to become an iconic part of downtown Seattle, and I applaud Amazon for its latest innovation," Gov. Jay Inslee said. 

"These unique buildings are so much more than a beautiful creative space for Amazon employees. They will help conserve a number of rare plant species from around the world and provide countless educational opportunities for local students – and that’s something Washington can take pride in."

"Seattle is the coolest city in the country, leading the way with innovative urban projects like The Spheres. This unique landscape will bring together students, visitors, and residents in the heart of our City," said Mayor Jenny Durkan.

More than 620 tons of steel were used to build the three buildings. The Spheres’ façade includes 2,643 panes of glass that are ultra-clear and energy-efficient, with a film interlayer to keep out infrared wavelengths that produce unwanted heat.

The company stated that structural engineers tested The Spheres for all kinds of environmental factors, including 91 different scenarios. At the base of The Spheres, a 400,000-pound ring beam transfers heavy loads of gravity, wind and seismic forces from the glass-and-steel façade to columns in the parking garage below

The largest Sphere is more than 90 feet (27 meters) tall and 130 feet (39 meters) in diameter. All three Spheres share a single indoor environment, which makes air flow critical between the buildings. Radiant floor heating and cooling is an efficient way to balance indoor temperature, and also ensures that less hot and dry air circulates through the HVAC system.

The geometrical pattern of three buildings is inspired by a shape found in nature - called a “Catalan,” which is derived from the face of a pentagonal hexecontahedron Catalan solid – the shape repeats throughout The Spheres with 60 faces per Sphere and 180 total.

Image © Katharine Logan

"Many of the plants inside The Spheres are found in cloud forests, a remarkably diverse type of high-elevation tropical forest that receives much of its moisture from direct contact with clouds rather than from rain," said the company.

"The Spheres largest inhabitant – a Ficus rubiginosa dubbed "Rubi" – was planted at a tree farm in California in 1969. Today, Rubi is 55-feet tall, 22-feet wide and weighs nearly 36,000 lbs."

The company also stated that the completion of The Spheres created more than 600 full-time jobs through the design, build and construction of project.

All images courtesy of Seattle Spheres, unless otherwise stated

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