Amazon Spheres in Seattle: everything we know

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Amazon Spheres in Seattle: everything we know

One of the most talked-about developments in recent years has been a trio of glass domes nestled between high-rise buildings on Amazon’s downtown Seattle campus. The structures that have been under construction for years, officially the Spheres, aroused both positive and negative interest as they took shape.

After construction was completed, Amazon spent the last year filling the domes with plants. That job is finally done.

The facility was officially opened this morning. Jeff Bezos gave Alexa the command to “open the spheres”. The domes are open to employees tomorrow, Tuesday, January 30th. Here’s a handy guide to what we know about these futuristic, glassy lumps.

What are the Amazon bullets supposed to be?

Inside the domes are botanical gardens designed as part of the growing offices in downtown Amazon. The idea is to maintain office space that fosters a connection with nature through biophilic design.

When will the Amazon Spheres open?

The facility, along with its visitor center, Understory, will open on Tuesday, January 30th.

Construction of the structure was completed in March 2016 and the final sheet of glass was installed in December 2016, completing the structure itself. Since then, Amazon has just finished upgrading the interior.

What’s in the Amazon Orbs?

The short answer: plants. Lots and lots of plants. Plus meeting rooms, seating, and a couple of takeaway restaurants.

In particular, the spheres have a few different plant displays, including a vivarium or a habitat for plants and freshwater animals. In a “fern farm” there are cloud forest plants that thrive in humane conditions. A living wall shows carnivorous pitcher plants.

More precisely, the first inhabitant of the spheres was an Australian tree fern. The tallest plant is a 55-foot, 48-year-old Ficus rubiginosa, nicknamed Rubi, which can be seen from a “canopy walk” high up in the domes.

In total, the living walls of the facility consist of 4,000 square meters with around 25,000 plants.

Outside of the Botanical Gardens, the Spheres also feature a visitor center, where the public can learn more about the project, as well as a bar and Italian restaurant run by local culinary darling Renee Erickson.

Where do the plants in the Amazon spheres come from?

While the plants came from a variety of sources – Rubi was from Berylwood Tree Farm in Somis, California – the majority of the plants were grown in a massive greenhouse on the East Side.

Can the public go to the Amazon spheres?

Yes, there are opportunities for the public to look inward – but since it’s not really intended for public consumption, not everyone can visit the entire facility on a whim. Amazon employees must also reserve an entry time in advance.

Most of the facility is part of the Amazon offices. There are a few items that will be open to the public, however, and the public can enter the entire facility as part of the company’s 90-minute Amazon HQ tours, which mostly take place on Wednesdays and must be booked in advance.

The following can be seen by the public without booking this HQ tour:

  • The visitor center, sub-story, and The Spheres Discovery exhibit.
  • The restaurant.
  • The public square around the spheres.

Who designed the Amazon Spheres?

Surprise: It’s the architecture firm NBBJ. The company designs most of Amazon’s expanded campus in the downtown area and Denny Triangle area. Project influences include UK’s Kew Gardens, the Mitchell Park Conservatory in Milwaukee, and La Biosfera in Genoa, Italy.

Of course, the focus of the room is on the flora – which is why the landscape architecture firm Site Workshop collaborated with NBBJ on the room. Site Workshop’s more visible projects include landscaping on other Amazon buildings, Artists at Play and the Fisher Pavilion in the Seattle Center, the revitalization of Thomas C. Wales Park in Westlake and Wright Park in Tacoma.