Two years after tech giant Amazon ended its search for a second headquarters site and settled on Arlington, Virginia (after plans for a Queens offshoot fell through), more information on the second phase of its new campus, and centerpiece The Helix tower, has finally been released.
In an “About Amazon” blog post released earlier this morning, the company announced it had teamed with frequent collaborator NBBJ, who also designed the company’s bulbous Spheres in Seattle, a greenhouse adjoined to their original headquarters, for this East Coast project. Phase one of Amazon’s HQ2 campus was first revealed in May of 2019 (Metropolitan Park), with a more restrained pair of buildings, totaling 2.1 million square feet, from ZGF Architects complemented by a James Corner Field Operations-designed landscape.
Phase two of the campus, which will ultimately hold up to 25,000 Amazon employees, is decidedly more ostentatious. NBBJ has unveiled a 22-story, 350-foot-tall glass spiral that decidedly references both DNA and conical mollusk shells to anchor its PenPlace site (as the press release calls out the biophilic design influence specifically), as well as two other buildings of the same height. Altogether, 2.8 million square feet of office space will be shared between three towers and Amazon expects them all to hit LEED Platinum certification.
The Helix itself will span 370,000 square feet and feature two hiking paths along its planted exterior, which Amazon claims will be planted with native flora from Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. The trail, and The Helix itself, will be opened to the public “a few weekends a month,” according to the company. Besides office space and its greened exterior, The Helix will feature an interior garden, a 1,500-person meeting space, and Amazon is starting an artist-in-residence program for the tower.
SCAPE has been tapped to handle PenPlace’s landscaping, which includes 2.5 acres of plazas and open space at The Helix’s base, which, from the renderings, are intended to seamlessly flow into the tower and conjoin the other two buildings on site. A dog run, 250-seat public amphitheater, lawns, green spaces, hilly planted areas, and 100,000 square feet of retail space across 12 storefronts are all planned, with farmers markets, concerts, and outdoor movies screenings all proposed. Joining the plaza will be a childcare center and a 20,000-square-foot community center that Amazon expects will be used for classes and science and technology education.
The biking and pedestrian experience was also, according to Amazon, at the top of their site planning criteria, and as such a quarter-mile of new bike lanes will be added and all vehicle traffic to and from PenPlace will be underground.
Amazon is expecting to break ground on the PenPlace section of its $2.5 billion campus in 2022, with the towers expected to open in 2025. Whiting-Turner is serving as the project contractor.