Amazon opens rainforest-like office space in Seattle

Amazon spheresE-commerce giant Amazon has opened a rainforest-like office space in Seattle that it hopes will spark new ideas for employees.

While cities across North America are seeking to host Seattle-based Amazon’s second headquarters, the world’s largest online retailer is still expanding its main campus.

Company office towers and high-end eateries have taken the place of warehouses and parking lots in Seattle’s South Lake Union district.

The Spheres’ three glass domes house about 40,000 plants of 400 species. Amazon, famous for its demanding work culture, hopes the Spheres’ lush environs will let employees reflect and have chance encounters, spawning new products or plans.

The building’s facade contains 2,643 panes of glass that are energy-efficient, with a film interlayer to keep out infrared wavelengths that produce unwanted heat. The space is more like a greenhouse than a typical office. Instead of enclosed conference rooms or desks, there are walkways and unconventional meeting spaces with chairs.

There are no enclosed offices, conference spaces or desks in the building and employees can meet in treehouses suspended under 40+ foot trees or in sitting areas and walking paths alongside cascading waterfalls

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 project created more than 600 full-time jobs, and is part of Amazon’s more than $4 billion investment in the design, development, and construction of its Seattle headquarters.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s billionaire founder, officially opened the project in a ceremony with Amazon executives, elected officials and members of the media – by voice command.

“Alexa, open the Spheres,” Bezos said, as a circle in the Spheres’ ceiling turned blue just like Amazon’s speech-controlled devices, whose voice assistant is named Alexa.

Amazon has invested $US3.7 billion on buildings and infrastructure in Seattle from 2010 to (northern) summer 2017, a figure that has public officials competing for its “HQ2″ salivating.

Amazon has said it expects to invest more than $US5 billion in construction of HQ2 and to create as many as 50,000 jobs.

“We wanted to create something really special, something iconic for our campus and for the city of Seattle,” said John Schoettler, Amazon’s vice president of global real estate and facilities.

Earlier this month, the online retailer narrowed 238 applications for its second headquarters to 20. The finalists, from Boston and New York to Austin, Texas, largely fit the bill of being big metropolises that can attract highly educated tech talent.

The Spheres will be open to 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.”

 

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