The SourceCivil Engineering MagazineSlideshow: Helix-shaped tower proposed for Amazon HQ in Arlington

Slideshow: Helix-shaped tower proposed for Amazon HQ in Arlington

By Catherine A. Cardno, Ph.D.

  • looking across the water at a helix-shaped glass tower amidst a number of traditional rectangular towers
  • aerial shot of a glass helix tower with landscaped walking paths that wind up the building
  • looking down a pedestrian streetscape with seating and shops on both sides
  • standing at street level, looking at a single story glass building next to a tower
  • aerial look at a plaza, a single story glass building with a triangle footprint, and a tower
  • an elevated look at a park with green grass, a tanbarked dog run, and asphalt walking paths

Last week, Amazon submitted the proposed design for its second headquarters, to be located in Arlington, Virginia, to Arlington County. Located just across the water from Washington, D.C., the new location is dubbed PenPlace. The design includes 2.8 million sq ft of offices, 100,000 sq ft of street-front retail and dining, and 2.5 acres of public park areas that would give the campus a welcoming, neighborhood feel. The company has announced that it expects to create 25,000 new jobs and invest $2.5 billion in Arlington in the next decade.

The company is seeking to create a healthier workforce and community. Designed by architecture firm NBBJ, the new proposed campus would be an urban landscape that would “create a unique, sustainable environment where (Amazon) employees can work and invent for our customers,” according to a Feb. 2 online news piece written by John Schoettler, the vice president of global real estate and facilities at Amazon. The released design would “create open and active spaces that aim to bring people closer to nature in an effort to further nurture innovation and creativity,” he says.

As part of the campus, three 22-story buildings would contain office space, with areas for collaboration, natural light, and constant interaction, featuring nature as their key design elements, according to Schoettler. They are designed as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum buildings, the highest certification for sustainability offered by the U.S. Green Building Council. Schoettler reports that these buildings would use an all-electric central heating and cooling system that would draw on 100 percent renewable energy from a solar farm located in southern Virginia. Amazon seeks to be net-zero carbon by 2040.

As part of the drive to integrate nature in the design as much as possible, the visual icon of the new proposed design is The Helix — a spiral-shaped “mountain” made of glass that includes two exterior, landscaped walking paths. If built, the building would host native plantings and trees, and the “hill climbs” would be open to the public a few weekends a month.

As proposed, the headquarters would also include 2.5 acres of public park areas, including a dog run; a forest grove; and a 200-plus seat amphitheater for concerts, farmers markets, and outdoor movie screenings. The plan also contains a 20,000 sq ft community building that could be used for educational initiatives, large community meetings, or even small classes.

To preserve the walkability and nonvehicular mobility of its neighbors and employees, building access for vehicles would be underground to “foster a safe and welcoming pedestrian environment for everyone,” according to Schoettler. Protected bike lanes would be installed in the streets, and every office building would have a dedicated street-level bike entrance.

Amazon hopes to gain approval for its proposed design from the county this year and begin construction on the campus in early 2022 with an anticipated opening in 2025.

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