The only true transparency related to the trio of steel-framed spheres—the centerpiece of Amazon’s 3.3-million-sq-ft headquarters in seismic Seattle—are the glass panes that enclose the faceted, terrarium-like structures.
Design, fabrication and erection of the spheres—the biggest is 95 ft tall and 130 ft in diameter—may forever remain shrouded, thanks to nondisclosure agreements signed by the involved firms, including fabricator Canron Steel Inc. and The Erection Co. Architect NBBJ, structural engineer Magnusson Klemencic Associates, Sellen Construction and steel fabrication consultant Columbia Wire and Iron. They declined to be interviewed about the 57,000-sq-ft project, scheduled for a December 2017 completion.
An irony is that Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, is the owner—since 2013—of the Washington Post newspaper. A June 28 online article in New York Magazine called Bezos “journalism’s white knight” for his rescue of the ailing newspaper, adding that he declined to comment.
Bezos may be the Post’s hero, but he is not the hero of his building team. All that Sellen is allowed to say about the spheres’ intricate frame is that the firm teamed up with NBBJ to develop “the most interesting structure in Seattle.”
From the street, it is apparent that the soccer-ball-like spheres resemble Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome. Also apparent is that the structure was created using segmental steel construction.
Within each sphere, all the pieces look identical, but the repetitive geometry is camouflaged by the organic-looking elements. It looks as if the spheres would have been impossible to execute without the most sophisticated digital design and fabrication tools, including laser scanners. None of the above could be confirmed.