Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and political and community leaders were on hand to mark the ceremonial opening of the Spheres, three interconnected domes housing tens of thousands of plants that are the architectural centerpiece of Amazon's $4 billion Seattle corporate campus.
After about a half-hour inspecting the tropical plants in Amazon’s new biospheres, CEO Jeff Bezos said goodbye to family members who had attended a ceremonial opening, and, before walking back to his office in a nearby skyscraper, stopped to shake the hand of his tour guide.
“Congratulations,” he told Ron Gagliardo, Amazon’s lead horticulturist. “The plants look happy.”
Amazon on Monday morning held a brief ceremony to officially open what it calls the Spheres, the architectural centerpiece of its $4 billion Seattle corporate campus. Gov. Jay Inslee, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, and other political and community leaders were on hand to mark the occasion, a milestone in the online retailer’s decade-long expansion that has reshaped Seattle.
The Spheres, three interconnected domes housing roughly 40,000 plants, are envisioned as a unique sort of corporate workspace, a place for some of the more than 40,000 Amazonians employed in Seattle to work or unwind in a more natural setting.
Speaking in front of a crowd of Amazon employees, people involved in the project, and journalists assembled on the fourth floor of the new building, Bezos officially christened the Spheres by asking Alexa, Amazon’s voice-activated digital assistant, to open the building.
“OK, Jeff,” the software’s female voice replied as a ring of lights turned on above.
The building opens to Amazon employees on Tuesday. Members of the public can take tours of an underground exhibit describing the space, or see the employees-only areas as part of an Amazon headquarters tour.
“We wanted to create something special, something iconic for our new campus and for Seattle,” said John Schoettler, Amazon’s vice president of global real estate and the architect of the company’s footprint in the city.
“It’s very satisfying,” he added in an interview. “Just seeing people’s faces coming through. … For a guy that does what I do, that’s about as good as it gets.”
Schoettler recalled walking through the Denny Triangle area with Bezos in 2011, as Amazon was sketching out its plans to purchase land for custom-built towers.
The district — mostly scattered parking lots, car dealerships and a hotel — Schoettler said, was “in desperate need of a new vision.” The area, a hill leveled to match downtown’s elevation beginning more than a century ago, was always intended to be an extension of Seattle’s central business district, he said.
Today, it is starting to look like it.
The Spheres sit between the retail giant’s twin 500-foot skyscrapers. A third is under construction across Seventh Avenue, its concrete and steel structure already several stories high and visible from Amazon’s Seventh Avenue dome. Cranes hoisted steel into the air as officials spoke Monday.
Beyond, to the northeast, construction crews worked on a handful of towers destined to be luxury condos, apartments and office space.