November 9, 2000
Making a home for Amazon at Union Station
By TONYA GIEBEL
For many businesses in today’s new economy, corporate identity is everything. This is no exception for Internet prodigy Amazon.com.
The company is taking two large spaces in the Union Station office complex: 210,000 square feet on seven floors in 605 Union Station which is now completed and 11 floors in 705 Union Station which is under construction.
DLR Group's design for both spaces in the Union Station complex meets one distinct project goal: to help maintain Amazon.com’s culture while consolidating corporate office functions into two major downtown areas.
The firm's unique, egalitarian culture is the driving force behind all planning, programming and design decisions. Evidence of this equality is seen throughout the building, the most predominant and challenging aspect being a “light hierarchy.”
“Amazon.com wanted to ensure that perimeter offices did not restrict the amount of natural light to the floor’s interior spaces,” said Kimberly Paulson, DLR Group’s project lead. DLR Group responded with a creative plan: closed offices placed around the core of the building and open office areas placed around the perimeter of the floors. By controlling the location, layout and window placement in the enclosed offices, and creating open office areas with perimeter windows, each office preserves a line-of-site view of the exterior. The light hierarchy ensures that employees working in all regions of the building are able to enjoy natural daylight.
“Achieving the light hierarchy, while maintaining the program requirements for the quantity of offices vs. cubicles was a fun challenge,” said Paulson, “and the end result is a bright, airy environment.”
Combine this environment with employee amenities, and the result is a place that people love to work in. By creating synergy in the non-traditional use of traditional materials, the economical and functional image of the company is manifested throughout common areas for the enjoyment of all employees. Shared spaces, including employee lounge, coffee shop, hotelling stations and teleconference rooms provide opportunities for socialization, in both small and large groups. High design elements bring color and warmth to shared spaces, enhancing opportunities for socialization.
Two groups that will benefit from the color and warmth in the hotelling stations and teleconferencing rooms are the temporary, contracting employees as well as special project teams. Both groups are an important piece of today’s high-tech workplace, yet create a challenge for employers to find space in an office already dense with a population of permanent workers. The project team solved this challenge by designing closed teaming spaces built on a flexible module. These modular rooms can be easily converted and used as closed office spaces as the need arises.
Flexibility in office space and flexibility in communication—these are further elements seen in the design of Amazon.com’s two large conference rooms. They serve as the company’s state-of-the-art, teleconferencing- capable A/V facilities and include special overflow equipment, enabling employees to communicate with colleagues and partners around the world.
Such unique design challenges, coupled with an aggressive design and construction schedule, demanded collaboration among everyone involved in the process: Amazon.com, DLR Group’s design team, and Opus Northwest. Amazon.com Real Estate and Facilities Project Manager Ellen Connolly, and Real Estate Program Manager Amy Goldstein-Zern guided the process, making key decisions and keeping the design process moving in order to meet critical deadlines.
"Our challenge was to create a space that met our density requirements, provided as much light as possible, and stayed within our aggressive budget," stated Goldstein-Zern. "DLR did a fabulous job of meeting our objectives. They really listened to our needs, taking every comment down on paper and honoring it," Goldstein-Zern said.
According to Goldstein-Zern, "Amazon was also particularly impressed with the project team from Opus. Overall, this was a wonderful, dedicated team to work with."
“The construction process was truly a partnership between Amazon.com, DLR Group, Opus Northwest and its partners,” stated Paulson, “Opus Northwest Tenant Improvement Project Managers Mike Hlastala and Dexter Brown, along with Job Superintendent Rick Sanislo worked hard to see that the build-out stayed on schedule.”
“To attain design quality at light speed requires clear goals,” says Jonathan Pettit, senior principal with DLR Group. “Amazon.com provided clear goals: efficiency of space layout, flexibility for future use, and the primacy of light in all spaces. Then they guided the decision-making process in every meeting, every decision and every design.”
The creativity that the Amazon.com/DLR Group team added to the original goals culminates in an exciting space that meets all project goals, while helping to attract and retain employees that position Amazon.com at the forefront of their industry.
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