The Spheres, Amazon Headquarters in Seattle


Seattle, USA,

Commercial Buildings, Headquarters, Visitor Center, Architecture and Culture,

The Spheres designed by NBBJ is landmark architecture inspired by nature and forms part of the Amazon headquarters in Seattle, USA. Unlike classic offices, employees here can work and engage directly with nature at the same time thanks to more than 40,000 plants.

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The Spheres, Amazon Headquarters in Seattle We all know that working for one of the big tech companies that dominate our digital world is often a unique experience. One reason for this is the values that these companies want to convey, because they are well aware of the communicative power of iconic architecture, even more so if it’s also sustainable. But while many other company offices are located in suburban areas, Amazon, the online sales giant, grew up in downtown Seattle and drew much of its innovative energy from its central location in a big city. This new structure was designed by American architecture firm NBBJ and the neighbourhood of buildings, plazas, and public open spaces connects seamlessly with Seattle’s existing metropolitan fabric, turning the slightly rundown neighbourhood into a buzzing technological hub. 
The most iconic part of NBBJ’s global project for Amazon is called The Spheres -  a trio of interlocking glass orbs with a multilevel botanical garden showcasing 40,000 plants. The largest of the three spheres is about 27 metres high, with a diameter of 39 metres. The entire structure is covered in 2,643 panes of clear glass, tessellated to form a seemingly curved surface. The facade’s geometric pattern is derived from a shape found in nature - a convex polyhedron, known as a Catalan solid.  Underneath the glass, a layer of film helps to limit the level of infrared radiation that enters and therefore keep the interiors cool.
Basically, The Spheres are three biospheres with over 300 plant species from more than 50 countries and almost every continent, some of which are extinct in the wild and others that are quite rare. A real collection of plants, designed to evolve over time and requiring all the care and attention of a full-time horticulturalist. The showcased plants include a 15-metre-tall fig tree, a 12-metre Australian fern, orchids from Ecuador, and carnivorous pitcher plants, a four-storey densely planted living wall and water features, including a waterfall.
The climate in the Spheres is set at 22° C and 60 % humidity during the day, then shifts to 12 degrees and 90 percent humidity at night to duplicate the typical cool, humid conditions of cloud-forest ecosystems.  With an area of more than 6200 square metres, the three spheres occupy only a small part of the Amazon headquarters but they are the focal point of NBBJ’s project, which is on track for LEED Gold certification. Open to Amazon employees, these interconnected environments offer a range of places to meet, work, and dine - from a wood-slatted “birds nest” a timber treehouse suspended 30 feet in the air that serves as an intimate meeting space.  to terraces with banquettes and chairs. Additionally, members of the public can reserve a spot at The Spheres Discovery at Understory, an immersive, 360-degree exhibit at the base of The Spheres. 
The design options chosen for The Spheres are based on studies suggesting that spaces that embrace biophilic design can inspire creativity and even improve brain function. Whatever the case may be, one thing’s certain - working in a green environment, in the city centre, well-served by public transport and easy to cycle to is enjoyable and sustainable.

Christiane Bürklein

Project: NBBJ - http://www.nbbj.com/
Location: Seattle, USA
Year: 2018
Images: courtesy of Amazon