Amazon has unveiled plans for the second phase of its Arlington, Virginia headquarters, and it’s patently clear the environment will play a central role. The three 22-story buildings designed by NBBJ will not only focus on sustainability (more on that in a moment), but involve “constant interaction” with nature. The centerpiece building, the 350-foot Helix, is a DNA-inspired tower where trees and gardens will spiral to the very top — like Amazon’s Spheres in Seattle, greenery will be virtually ubiquitous.
Every building will have all-electric central heating and cooling sourced from a solar farm in Virginia. The 2.5 acres of publicly accessible spaces will focus on walkways, retail and landscaping instead of cars, with delivery trucks offloading their goods underground. An amphitheater will handle everything from concerts to farmers’ markets. Protected bike lanes and street-level bike facilities will also encourage people to ditch cars.
And yes, Amazon is aware the pandemic will likely skew how people use these buildings long after it’s safe to return to the office. When the second phase buildings are ready in 2025, the focus will be on collaborative environments and “agency” that lets staff determine where and how they work. Amazon VP John Schoettler told the WSJ that he expected some employees to only occasionally visit, and those shared spaces will be useful when they need to work with others.
The introduction comes as Amazon continues to face resistance to its expansions. Critics have argued that Amazon’s HQ2 plans may push out lower-income residents and deprive communities of revenue through tax incentives. Amazon has pledged $2 billion toward affordable housing in its hub cities and has designed the new Arlington facilities with the community in mind, but that might not fully allay concerns the company will disrupt neighborhoods.