Amazon says the sphere-shaped structures it’s building as a centerpiece for its new urban campus in Seattle won’t open until 2017, but you can already see the massive buildings starting to take shape near downtown Seattle.
But passersby on the street are only seeing part of the new spheres. GeekWire was able to capture rare views from the top of the nearby Cirrus apartment building and also by commissioning Puget Sound Aerial Imaging to take pictures from the sky.
The images provide an unprecedented look at the highly anticipated project. The ornate spheres will sit in the shadow the Space Needle and will almost certainly become some of the city’s most recognizable structures. The largest of the three spheres will sit 95 feet tall and 130 feet in diameter. That’s about the equivalent of an eight-story building.
Seattleites walking around Amazon’s growing campus should be used to seeing construction crews by now, but this site already doesn’t look like your average office tower. Things are going to start to look even more unusual as the spheres come together over the coming months, so GeekWire will make sure to check back in from time to time.
The biodomes are surrounded by Amazon’s other new — more traditional — buildings, which are also under construction. It’s part of a 3.3 million-square-foot office and retail complex that will span three blocks bounded by Westlake Avenue, Blanchard Street and Sixth Avenue, connected by a streetcar line to Amazon’s existing headquarters campus in the South Lake Union.
Planning documents show the spheres are meant to give Amazon employees a place to “work and socialize in a more natural, park-like setting” and will be large enough to accommodate “mature trees.”
Speaking at the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce annual meeting on Monday, Amazon vice president Jeff Wilke revealed a few additional details, adding that the domes will house 300 plants from more than 30 countries and Amazon will employ a full-time horticulturalist to take care of everything.
“It will be a place where new possibilities are explored and ideas are formed,” he said.
But the spheres are just part of Amazon’s broader vision its new campus.
Wilke said the company has spent $4 billion on developing its urban offices ever since it decided not to move out to the much cheaper suburbs. The company now calls more than 10 million square feet of office space home.
Everything is more expensive near downtown and traffic all around the area is notoriously frustrating, but Wilke said the location has other perks.
He reported more than 70 percent of employees who work Seattle also live in the city and more than 15 percent live in the same ZIP code where they work. About 55 percent of those workers commute by something other than car, including 20 percent who walk.
“We believe this concentration providers for a healthier, more dynamic workforce,” he said. “It’s a strong indicator that our longterm commitment to an urban campus can bring some of the best and the brightest right here to downtown Seattle.”