Amazon Gets Design Approval for Seattle Campus ‘Biodomes’


The major companies defining social, commerce and communications in the digital era are also redefining architecture and work-space.

Amazon just received approval from Seattle’s design review board for a five-story office building to be constructed of three intersecting spheres in its massive three-block Denny Triangle campus, aptly known as “the Spheres.” 

Amazon’s architect, NBBJ, continues to refine the plans to create an effect that “is visually lighter, and geometrically organic and sculptural,” the Seattle Times reports. The spheres, which have adopted the loving nickname “biodome” from the press, range in height from 80 to 95 feet and include flex work space, an atrium of plants and trees, as well as a dog park, walkway and an open field.[more]

Local response has so far been generally positive. “Amidst the current building boom of glass boxes and low-rise metal-clad apartments, it is so refreshing to see a design that reaches outside of Seattle for some ‘global’ architectural inspiration, and yet it is well designed and tailored to our own urban environment,” one letter to the design board read. “These glowing, sculptural orbs will provide an ‘organic’ and very human-scaled focal point to the heart of the high-density Denny Triangle.”

The Seattle Times notes that adjustments were made to the plans to provide hardscape (an architectural term that refers to paving) around each of the building’s entrances to “allow anyone to [stand] and experience the spheres close up.”

The huge biodomes, in addition to offices, will also include dining areas and retail stores. “Think of it of like the movie Biodome minus Pauly Shore. And all the science experiments gone wrong. And the pot smoking,” Gizmodo teases. “It’s not just about the themed office anymore—it’s about themed buildings and environments that give employees a reason to stay late. Why? Because they never even have to go outside.”

Amazon isn’t the only tech company giving its employees reason to work longer. Apple recently received unanimous approval from the Cupertino city council for Steve Jobs’ visionary “spaceship” campus. The 2.8 million-square-foot circular headquarters, due to be completed by 2016, will have four floors, an exterior made almost entirely of curved glass, and enough space for 14,200 employees, close to three times the number previously working on the site.

Not to be left-out, Facebook recently partnered with a real-estate developer to build a 394-unit apartment complex in Menlo Park, Calif., just down the road from its headquarters, while Google invested $6.5 million into a 51-unit apartment building that opened in nearby Mountain View last month. 

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