Amazon is redesigning downtown Seattle by building gigantic biospheres. They are indoor, climate-controlled plant paradises designed by algorithms.
The company has been building its new campus in the heart of downtown Seattle, the city where the company was founded just 23 years ago. At a massive 3.3 million square feet, the new campus consists of the necessities to house the employees of the largest internet-based retailer in the world: three high-rises, two mid-size office buildings, and a multi-purpose meeting center. When completed, the campus will be the largest development project ever to occur in downtown Seattle.
The project has been in the works since 2013, when architectural firm NBBJ first revealed the design for the complex to the public. The shining centerpieces of this enterprise are the the glass-and-metal “biospheres,” geodesic dome greenhouses that are mild and climate controlled, allowing employees to meet, work, and collaborate in lush greenery. The steel skeleton of the buildings is already in place, and the project is making headway, with the first trees being transported into the domes last week. The structures will eventually hold approximately 40,000 plants.
The biodomes are truly works of science fiction becoming reality. The structures themselves were designed in large part by algorithms, a more efficient tool than an architect’s hand to map out the vastly complex, organic, tessellating hexagons that make up the steel skeleton. The design brings together technology and nature, providing an indoor-outdoor workspace enjoyable enough so the employees will never want to leave, while giving the buildings a sculptural presence in the city that the public can enjoy from afar. Compared to the ping-pong tables, hammocks and waterslides of the other tech giants’ campuses, the Amazon design seems to have grown up from a glorified college recreation hall to a fully functional utopian landscape. It wouldn’t be surprising to start seeing the Amazon biosphere forests popping up in San Francisco, New York or Austin in the near future.