Understory at Amazon Spheres

Finalist 2018

The Spheres is the latest addition to Amazon’s downtown Seattle headquarters, and offers employees a work environment shared with over 40,000 plants, bringing them closer to nature as they work.

To explain this groundbreaking new building, Amazon established a free, public visitor center at The Spheres, called Understory. The name refers to the lush habitat between the rainforest floor and canopy and provides a fully immersive, 360-degree experience where visitors can get up close and personal with the science, engineering and plants behind The Spheres.

At a central media installation called "Spheres Immersion," visitors can take in sweeping interior views of The Spheres above, as well as stunning macro footage of its world-class plant collection. The experience is composed of a large curved LED display, surrounded by LED columns. Interpretive zones within—demarcated by pools of light and featuring directional audio—offer voiceover descriptions of the plants on view. A generative soundscape enhances the experience.

Surrounding the central media experience is a series of modular exhibits displaying architectural models, construction materials, hands-on interactives and a rotating gallery of plants. Each station features an engaging physical interactive and a touchscreen interactive.

“Amazon: Here” explains how Amazon has worked to integrate their global headquarters into the heart of Seattle and gives visitors the opportunity to try their hand at urban planning: installing transit and bike lanes, green roofs and the occasional house perched on a skyscraper. At “Spheres: Plants,” visitors can trace the journey of the 55-foot-tall, 36,000-pound rusty fig tree—nicknamed Rubi—that was painstakingly brought from California and lowered in by crane.

Design Firms: 

Studio Matthews
Belle & Wissell
Graham Baba Architects

Client: 

Amazon

Open Date: 

December 2017

Photo Credits: 

Ben Benschneider (photography), Belle & Wissell (videography)

Design Team: 

Jill Randerson Exhibit Management (project and content management)

Consultants: 

Niteo, Jesse Solomon Clark, Olivia Knapp

Fabricators: 

Dillon Works, Whitlock, Spearhead

Related Links: 

New Member Offer

Click to access the 2019 "Never been an SEGD member before" $185 sign up offer

Upcoming SEGD Events

2019 SEGD Wayfinding & Placemaking Banner
2019 SEGD Xlab Banner