Architecture

Amazon's new HQ takes design inspiration from DNA and the poop emoji

Amazon's new HQ takes design i...
Amazon appears to have taken inspiration both from the double-helix structure of DNA and the poop emoji in the design of its latest headquarters facility in Arlington, Virginia
Amazon appears to have taken inspiration both from the double-helix structure of DNA and the poop emoji in the design of its latest headquarters facility in Arlington, Virginia
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Amazon appears to have taken inspiration both from the double-helix structure of DNA and the poop emoji in the design of its latest headquarters facility in Arlington, Virginia
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Amazon appears to have taken inspiration both from the double-helix structure of DNA and the poop emoji in the design of its latest headquarters facility in Arlington, Virginia
The campus as it'll look from the Pentagon Lagoon
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The campus as it'll look from the Pentagon Lagoon
Three retail pavillions will offer a ton of retail and restaurant space
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Three retail pavillions will offer a ton of retail and restaurant space
Large public spaces will be a feature
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Large public spaces will be a feature
The design aims to be pedestrian and bicycle focused
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The design aims to be pedestrian and bicycle focused
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When a company the size of Amazon starts casually dropping the idea that it'd like to build a second headquarters, state-level politicians start to drool, with jobs and growth spinning around in their eye sockets even faster than dollar signs are spinning around in the eye sockets of Amazon execs. This, remember, is a company that occupies nearly 20 percent of all available office space in Seattle, and its meteoric success has lifted that city's numbers with it, if not necessarily its living conditions.

So began a "Hunger Games of cities" in 2017, as Wired put it, as more than 230 cities across the USA wheeled their offerings in barrows to the altar of Bezos. Tax breaks. Special considerations. Literal piles of cash. It'd all be worth it, they thought, when some 50,000 white-collar jobs, with average salaries around US$150,000 a year, started raining cashed-up, high-tech yuppies into the cafe, retail and school catchments of their towns.

In the end, Amazon chose to split its bounties between New York City and Arlington, Virginia. Not, in the end, because they offered the most money – Montgomery County, Maryland, prostrated itself with US$8.5 billion outstretched, Chicago took the extraordinary step of offering Amazon half of the payroll tax paid by its employees, and the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, personally bought 1,000 things off Amazon just so he could leave a thousand five-star ratings, presumably trying to talk to these technology people in a language they'd understand.

No, New York won because it was New York, and Arlington won because it's right across the river from Washington, DC. Not that they didn't offer incentives – indeed the public opposition to the New York deal ended up causing Amazon to pull out – but in the end, location was paramount.

All of which is merely an interesting preamble to today's announcement of what HQ2 in Arlington is actually going to look like. Amazon released some renders today, and the new facility, designed by architecture firm NBBJ, will certainly be a landmark.

There will be three new 22-storey buildings on the site, built to the highest sustainability certification offered by the U.S. Green Building Council, running entirely on outsourced solar and offering 2.8 million square feet of office space between them. And nobody's going to notice them at all because of the giant, swirly, green-and-glass soft serve ice cream dollop in the middle.

The campus as it'll look from the Pentagon Lagoon
The campus as it'll look from the Pentagon Lagoon

It's called the Helix, and while it will have some offices and "alternative work environments" built into it, the two walking paths spiraling up the outside will be the structure's calling card. Landscaped with "lush gardens and flourishing trees native to the region," it'll offer a neat little urban hiking experience, as well as spaces for artists to sit and be inspired by their green, spirally surroundings and make stuff. The overall vibe could end up being reminiscent of the spectacular Cloud Forest biodome and its skywalks in Singapore, but with an American twist instead of a tropical one.

It'll be opened up to the public "several weekends a month," and the rest of the compound will offer some 2.5 acres of public space, including an amphitheater, a "forest grove," a central green capable of hosting markets, concerts and outdoor movies, retail spaces, restaurants, childcare centers, food truck accommodations and a "dog run." A separate 20,000 square foot "community space" will host community meetings, classes and such.

We've seen a couple of other striking NBBJ designs in the last 12 months, notably the spiraling gardens climbing up the Vivo HQ, and an entirely new neighborhood the size of Manhattan – both in Shenzhen, China. The Helix and the rest of Amazon's HQ2 campus will be another impressive feather in this firm's cap, and quite a landmark for Arlington. More photos in the gallery!

Source: Amazon

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4 comments
4 comments
BlueOak
Aha, yes, the poop emoji. A symbolic pooping on the environment.

If Amazon truly wished to up its virtue-signal rating for anti-carbon worship, it would very loudly announce it was “cancelling” a second HQ altogether.

True love of green would eliminate evil carbon loving commuting, and yet more environment-punishing new construction, in a soon to be surplus office space market, by leveraging the already built work at home model.

And pay those employees a monthly rent, utilities (including Internet), and cleaning stipend for using their homes for Amazon’s business.
Bill S.
Meanwhile, Bezo is busy offering jobs in third world countries, such as Jamaica (a friend of mine worked there) and paying sub-minimun wages. When you quit a job in Jamaica because you aren't making enough to survive, that's a bad thing. But I think its more important for Mr. Bezo to be upgrading his yachts.
ChairmanLMAO
Taking donations of brown paint. Need lots!!
ReservoirPup
@BlueOak - what you say is called wisdom. It has been lacking where the hype and financial commitments rule. But if packaged right, your idea may penetrate the right minds. I hope Mr Bezos reads not only WP but NA also.