Meet Downtown Seattle's Newest Landmark: The Amazon Spheres

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By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo
Move over Space Needle—here come the Amazon Spheres.

The latest addition to Amazon’s Seattle campus has just opened, the three glass biosphere domes transforming the cityscape with their gleaming, orb-like exteriors. Inside, employees and guests will find a veritable rainforest. 

Meet Downtown Seattle's Newest Landmark: The Amazon Spheres - Photo 1 of 8 - Connected via canopy to the second tower of the new Amazon headquarters, the Spheres also  provide public benefits, such as public access to the entire first floor, street-level retail, and parkland (including a public dog run).

Connected via canopy to the second tower of the new Amazon headquarters, the Spheres also  provide public benefits, such as public access to the entire first floor, street-level retail, and parkland (including a public dog run).

The Spheres have no enclosed offices, conference spaces, or desks. Instead, employees can hold meetings in tree houses suspended under 40-foot trees, or in sitting areas and walking paths alongside cascading waterfalls. The multi-story, glass-enclosed structures are also home to more than 40,000 plants from around the world—a botanical immersion that transports visitors far away from downtown Seattle's urban landscape. 

Meet Downtown Seattle's Newest Landmark: The Amazon Spheres - Photo 2 of 8 - Three fabricators across the Pacific Northwest collaborated to create the structure. 

Three fabricators across the Pacific Northwest collaborated to create the structure. 

The project created more than 600 full-time jobs and is part of Amazon’s more than $4 billion investment in the design, development, and construction of its Seattle headquarters. The design is a result of innovative thinking about the nature of the workplace: studies have suggested that spaces that embrace biophilic design can inspire creativity and even improve brain function.

Meet Downtown Seattle's Newest Landmark: The Amazon Spheres - Photo 3 of 8 - The structural steel was then shipped to the site and assembled by the ironworkers crew. Thanks to the exacting fabrication process, all the components fit together almost perfectly, with very few adjustments necessary.

The structural steel was then shipped to the site and assembled by the ironworkers crew. Thanks to the exacting fabrication process, all the components fit together almost perfectly, with very few adjustments necessary.

"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," said John Schoettler, Amazon vice president of global real estate and facilities. 

NBBJ Design worked with Amazon to design the Spheres, and construction was handled by Sellen Construction.

Meet Downtown Seattle's Newest Landmark: The Amazon Spheres - Photo 4 of 8 - The Spheres form a dramatic addition to the Amazon headquarters and a landmark in downtown Seattle, demonstrating the company’s long-standing commitment to the city.

The Spheres form a dramatic addition to the Amazon headquarters and a landmark in downtown Seattle, demonstrating the company’s long-standing commitment to the city.

Meet Downtown Seattle's Newest Landmark: The Amazon Spheres - Photo 5 of 8 - Design computation helped to generate the spheres, each a pentagonal hexecontahedron formed by tessellating a pentagon across its surface. Algorithms enabled the team to quickly generate a steel-and-glass structure that could be constructed efficiently and cost-effectively.

Design computation helped to generate the spheres, each a pentagonal hexecontahedron formed by tessellating a pentagon across its surface. Algorithms enabled the team to quickly generate a steel-and-glass structure that could be constructed efficiently and cost-effectively.

Meet Downtown Seattle's Newest Landmark: The Amazon Spheres - Photo 6 of 8 - In addition to the plants themselves, the interior also includes tree houses, bridges, a waterfall, and a conference room enclosed by greenery.

In addition to the plants themselves, the interior also includes tree houses, bridges, a waterfall, and a conference room enclosed by greenery.

Meet Downtown Seattle's Newest Landmark: The Amazon Spheres - Photo 7 of 8 - Exposure to nature is proven to put people at ease and help them think more creatively, so the Spheres are designed to help Amazon employees feel and work their best.

Exposure to nature is proven to put people at ease and help them think more creatively, so the Spheres are designed to help Amazon employees feel and work their best.

Meet Downtown Seattle's Newest Landmark: The Amazon Spheres - Photo 8 of 8 - The Spheres address the direct link to nature that is typically missing from urban offices.

The Spheres address the direct link to nature that is typically missing from urban offices.

The Understory is a 360-degree immersive and interactive exhibit at the base of The Spheres and open to the public by appointment only. All appointments are free and can be booked here.

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