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Day 1 of the GeekWire Summit 2016 at the Seattle Sheraton, October 4, 2016. Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire
Scott Wyatt, partner at architecture firm NBBJ, at the 2016 GeekWire Summit talking about the future of cities. Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire

Design is integral to how we move through the world — how we experience and understand the places where we live, work and play.

And Scott Wyatt, a partner at Seattle-based global architecture firm NBBJ, understands better than anyone how huge an impact science-driven design can have on workspaces.

Scott Wyatt of NBBJ at the GeekWire Summit. Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire
Scott Wyatt of NBBJ at the GeekWire Summit. Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire

Speaking at the 2016 GeekWire Summit, Wyatt — whose firm has designed headquarters for Google, Samsung, Boeing, Alibaba, Tencent and many other tech giants — discussed the latest developments in workspace design, including how elements like natural spaces and eye contact with others can impact productivity and mental health at work.

He also went deeper. Wyatt discussed how the migration to cities and the current building boom — we’re currently on pace to double the building stock on the planet in about 30 years — is impacting society. Wyatt called that boom “mind boggling,” and a real challenge for architects.

“It is also exhilarating to think about the opportunity in front of us to reinvent civilization,” he said.

Watch Wyatt’s full talk here:

Part of the reinvention of civilization that Wyatt discussed can be seen at the new headquarters for Amazon, which NBBJ is helping to design smack in the center of Seattle.

Amazon biosphers
The biospheres near Amazon’s corporate headquarters. Photo: Nat Levy, GeekWire.

Amazon’s downtown campus, which could house up to 50,000 people over the next decade, is on the cutting edge of workplace design, particularly the trend of incorporating corporate campuses with the cities around them, he said.

Amazon is including natural spaces in their buildings, like Amazon’s rooftop dog park and iconic biodomes, which are still under construction.

The goal? Ensure that workspaces are open and encourage contact between as many people as possible, all based on research that shows these elements can increase cognitive functioning.

This is all part of NBBJ’s efforts to build “a generative office building, a building where people generate new relationships,” Wyatt said.

And as these buildings become more integrated with the cities around them, the divide between a city and a corporation becomes less clear.

In line with Amazon’s culture, Wyatt said the new campus blurs the divide between work and play, a wider trend he has noticed in companies accross the globe.

“The notion of life-work balance is a myth,” he said, “what we’re really doing is figuring out how to integrate life, work, play, learning,” in workplaces around the world.

Scott Wyatt of NBBJ at the GeekWire Summit. Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire
Scott Wyatt of NBBJ at the GeekWire Summit. Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire

Wyatt added that, as global population skyrockets and city density increases, incorporating this kind of science-based design is essential to keeping urban residents healthy, creative, and productive.

And that’s also where Amazon’s infamous biospheres come in.

Wyatt said the plant filled orbs aren’t designed to integrate Amazonians with the wider community, but just the opposite.

“This is for people at Amazon to have an alternate work space, to be among plants in a profound way,” he said, citing research that shows natural settings are where people are most productive and creative.

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