It’s been a big week for one of the biggest tech companies in the world. Hot on the heels of the announcement that the founder of online retailing behemoth, Jeff Bezos, would step down as CEO – but remain on as executive chairman – Amazon also unveiled plans for the curly new centrepiece of its headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.
Like the rest of the campus, which will host around 260,000 square metres of new office space across three buildings, the newest addition will aim for LEED Platinum, under the US green building standard.
And like “The Spheres” at the company’s Atlanta HQ, the new “Helix” building is inspired by patterns commonly found in nature, such as pinecones, seashells and “weather patterns” (cyclones?).
[The Fifth Estate couldn’t help but think it also looks a bit like a cartoon boring machine coming out of the ground. It’s also been likened to a corkscrew, a soft serve ice cream, and even “a glass poop emoji covered in trees”.]
The sloping sides of the biophilic double-helix design by architecture firm NBBJ will be covered in native flora so both employees and visitors can feel like they are hiking in the mountains. On the inside, there will be indoor gardens to keep the connection with natural environment going.
In a departure from the norm, all windows will be operable, allowing the building to make the most of temperate days rather than relying on mechanical heating and cooling. Bloomberg CityLab’s suggests that the focus on fresh air is a new fixture for commercial office buildings borne out of the pandemic.
Compared to the self-contained suburban business parks also popular with America’s tech giants, these urban headquarters offer more to the public, including an amphitheatre, a “forest grove” and nearby 2.8-acre park. The helix building will also host an artist-in-residence for local artists, according to the company.
Active transport is also a priority across the new headquarters, with cars all but banished to the underground to make way for pedestrians.
Last year, The Fifth Estate was told that it would be all eyes on the FAANGS (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google) to show leadership on climate action. Microsoft has emerged as standout, with plans to remove the carbon it has emitted over 20 years.
Amazon has also made a pledge to be net-zero carbon by 2040, committed to run its operations off 100 per cent renewables, and launched a $2 billion fund to back companies with innovative low carbon solutions.
As such, the Arlington headquarters will be electrically heated and cooled and run on 100 per cent renewable energy from a solar farm located in Pittsylvania County in southern Virginia.