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Amazon unveils Helix building as centrepiece of new campus – some compare it to poop emoji

Amazon has unveiled a 350-foot, 22-story Helix building for its new campus to a mixed reception, with some cheekily comparing it to the poop emoji.

According to NBBJ, the architectural firm behind the building’s design, its helix shape is meant to echo the occurrence of helixes in nature – from the double-helix of DNA through to the structure of the Milky Way.

Amazon says the building – to be built at a campus in Arlington, Virginia – won’t be a typical office space, unlike the many other far more bland structures in the renderings. Instead it will be somewhere for staff to explore their own minds outside of the confines of their cubicles.

The 22-storey Helix building. Pic: NBBJ
Image: The 22-storey Helix building. Pic: NBBJ

The structure is ringed by a green belt of trees and grass, which will bring to mind the terrain of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

It is the centrepiece of Amazon’s second headquarters in Arlington, and is visible in most of the artists’ renderings of the sprawling campus.

When completed, the whole HQ2 facility will contain more than two million square feet of office space, with about 65,000 square feet given to retail and other community areas.

Construction is scheduled to begin next year and be completed by 2025, according to Amazon.

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The HQ2 complex is intended to blend into the wider neighbourhood in Arlington, with 2.5 acres of publicly accessible green space, as well as facilities such as a community centre and a dog run.

Dale Alberda, an architect and principal of NBBJ, said: “This isn’t just about work. It’s about how you interact with your community.”

There are open spaces at the bottom of the structure. Pic: NBBJ
Image: There are open spaces at the bottom of the structure. Pic: NBBJ

Amazon says the facility will eventually host 25,000 employees, although more than 1,600 were already working there as of December.

The facility will run on 100% renewable energy from a solar farm located in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, the company added.

Responding to concerns about the facility’s impact on local housing, as highly-paid staff move in and potentially drive up rents, Amazon said it has “to date… committed $ 381m in below-market loans and grants to the Washington Housing Conservancy” as well as range of other donations.

The site is designed to inspire people to stay after the workday ends. Pic: NBBJ
Image: The site is designed to inspire people to stay after the workday ends. Pic: NBBJ

The Helix is officially described as a “370,00 square feet spiral-shaped building with lush indoor garden spaces, an Artist in Residence program, a 1,500-person meeting centre, and an outdoor hill climb landscaped with plants and trees from the Virginia mountains.

“The Helix and its exterior hill climb will be open to the public select weekends every month,” the company adds.

The building pikes above shops at Amazon's HQ2. Pic: NBBJ
Image: The building pokes above shops at Amazon’s HQ2. Pic: NBBJ

Peter Murray, the curator in chief of New London Architecture and a respected architectural writer, said: “Jeff Bezos always asks his architects to come up with solutions that no one has done before.

“The Helix is unique as an office building but its form owes much to ancient buildings like the 9th century spiral Great Mosque of Samarra in Iraq, as well as the more recent Gherkin tower in London designed by Norman Foster.

“The Helix building is fashionably up to date with its focus on greenery and is also on message as a beacon of ‘active design’ by including a hill climb which will encourage visitors and workers to walk to the top of the structure.”

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