Retail company Amazon has completed a set of glass orbs as part of its headquarters in Seattle, providing work areas for employees and green space for the public.
The Spheres, the company’s newest Seattle HQ buildings host more than 40,000 plants from around the world. There’s no place else in the world quite like The Spheres – a spot where Amazon employees can work in an environment that’s more like a tropical rainforest in the clouds than an office.
Plants, trees, sunlight, soil, and water take center stage – 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. The Spheres are a result of innovative thinking about the character of the workplace and an extended conversation about what is typically missing from urban offices – a direct link to nature. Studies suggest that spaces that embrace biophilic design can inspire creativity and even improve brain function.
“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. “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.”
The Spheres feature treehouse meeting rooms, river and waterfall features, paludariums, a four-story living wall, and epiphytic trees. They are home to more than 400 species spanning five continents and 50 countries, and many of the plants have journeyed from botanical gardens, tree nurseries, and conservation programs from around the globe. 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.
Amazon is committed to sharing the beauty and biodiversity inside The Spheres with the public and will 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.
“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.
“The most delightful design feature of Amazon’s Spheres goes far beyond bringing natural beauty into Seattle’s urban core,” said Toby Bradshaw, Professor and Chair, UW Department of Biology. “The use of plant biodiversity — including the ‘weird’ and ‘ugly’ specimens — to tell the story of interconnections among living things will be an inspiration to all who visit and work at The Spheres.”
The structure was designed by American architecture firm NBBJ, which gained approval for the project in 2013.
all images courtesy of Amazon