Amazon’s Spheres blend form and function

As featured in Building Design + Construction, Amazon’s “crown jewels” are being touted as an “architectural marvel.” Seven years in the making, The Spheres are located on Amazon’s $4 billion Seattle campus, and are a trio of conjoined glass domes complete with terraces, waterfall and river features, and a treehouse conference area.

Designed by architectural firm NBBJ to be a “hybrid environment that inspires productivity and collaboration,” the 65,000-square-foot triumvirate used more than 620 tons of steel supported by a concrete base to buttress the triangular double-laminated insulated glass units (IGUs), which were fabricated using four 5-millimeter lites of Starphire Ultra-Clear® glass with a Solarban® 60 solar control low-e coating by Vitro Architectural Glass.

Because the structure would house 40,000 plants, the glass had to allow photosynthesis. After the NBBJ design team studied several sphere-like conservatories around the world, they had to find a way to maximize the amount of solar energy while limiting heat. David Sadinsky, senior associate, NBBJ, said, “This led us to look at glass composition, which eventually drove us to a low-iron glass and a low-e coating that allowed a concentrated portion of the solar spectrum to come in while rejecting heat.”

It took five years from concept to completion opening in January 2018. The geometric shape called the pentagonal hexecontahedron forms The Spheres’ steel frame and was completed in March 2016. The building consists of elongated pentagonal modules that appear 180 times across the three spheres. By connecting each angle of the module to a centralized hub, the architects created a fluid yet modular pattern that could be repeated throughout the building. A steel fabricator in Oregon mass-produced the modules that were shipped onsite and assembled like a puzzle. (Source:

With more than 25,000 plants woven into 4,000 square feet of wall, the Living Walls are an innovative demonstration of biodiversity. These walls are the brainchild of Horticulture Program Manager, Ben Eiben. Ben and his team assembled the living walls by growing the plants on mesh panels at the greenhouse. When the panels were ready, they were transported and attached to the growing surface. With careful preparation, the team assembled The Spheres’ tallest wall in only two weeks! (Source: