This summer, the sounds of construction will no longer ring out across Amazon’s second headquarters in Virginia. Last week, the e-commerce giant announced it was hitting pause on the development, citing recent layoffs and job cuts within the company. Among the components of the redevelopment hit by this halt in construction, is the NBBJ-designed “Helix,” a spiraling structure that is a focal point of the campus. Since its announcement of its design last year, the internet has likened its appearance to that of a poop emoji: 💩.
Amazon first publicized its plan to open its “HQ2” in 2017, prompting cities across the country to vie for their metropolitan areas to serve as the second headquarters location. The company ultimately settled on campuses in Northern Virginia and New York, however the New York plans fell through due to political opposition.
The development in Arlington, Virginia, is scheduled to be realized two phases, with the first slated to complete this summer as anticipated. When it opens in June, the plan is for more than 8,000 workers to take up desks in two new office towers in a 2.1-million-square-foot development known as Metropolitan Park.
Across the street from Metropolitan Park, another development, referred to as a PenPlace, was readying to take shape, until recently. This 2.8-million-square-foot campus will house three NBBJ-designed office towers featuring glass facades and the 350-foot-tall Helix structure, the spiraling building that anchors the district. When realized, the Helix structure will include 370,000 square feet and sport a very green exterior with winding hiking paths and a plethora of local vegetation sprouting from its radial form.
Like its predecessor greenhouse spheres or orbs at the Amazon headquarters in Seattle, the Helix has also been designed by NBBJ. Its 2.5 acres of open space, comprising plazas and gardens will be designed by landscape studio SCAPE.
Groundbreaking on the site of the Helix was planned for early 2023, but this has now been pushed back. Amazon and JBG Smith Properties, the developer working on the project, have not announced a date for when construction would kick off following the pause.
“We’re always evaluating space plans to make sure they fit our business needs and to create a great experience for employees,” he said John Schoettler, Amazon’s real estate chief, in a statement shared with Bloomberg. “And since Met Park will have space to accommodate more than 14,000 employees, we’ve decided to shift the groundbreaking of PenPlace out a bit.”
If the delay continues for an extended period of time, Amazon, project developers, and designers may have to seek an extension on site approval and construction permits. Once construction begins, Amazon anticipates it will take three years before employees can occupy the buildings.
The news of the construction pause follows an announcement last month from the e-commerce company on its plans to cancel, close, or delay the opening and operation of 99 warehouse and fulfillment facilities across 30 states. It also comes in the midst of wider layoffs in the tech industry this year.
AN will circle back when construction resumes or an updated project timeline is announced.