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November 8, 2006

Gates Foundation HQ will have a curvy look

Image courtesy of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will be housed in three office buildings with sweeping, outward-reaching curves.

Look for some sweeping, curvy office buildings when the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation opens its new headquarters across the street from the Seattle Center and the swoopy Experience Music Project.

The foundation's plans for its 1 million-square-foot headquarters received city's approval on Monday.

The headquarters will be made up of three buildings with outward-reaching curves, which will help create an open environment with views into and through the campus. Extensive landscaping and green space are planned to tie the project into the neighborhood.

In developing the design, the foundation said it is following five criteria to fit into the neighborhood and four criteria to make it appealing to its workers.

To blend into the neighborhood, the headquarters will be scaled to its surroundings; have an inspiring and creative design; be secure in a low-profile way; have well-defined campus boundaries that are landscaped; and use sustainable materials and construction methods.

To serve its inhabitants, the headquarters will offer a sense of place that reflects the foundation's work; a campus that encourages interaction; green and open spaces; and access to natural light for all.

A foundation spokeswoman said the city's decision allows the foundation to pursue a major phased development permit for the project. She said the foundation hopes to finish the entitlement process by year-end.

Although officials approved the plans, they expressed concern about congestion during construction in an area with heavy commute traffic. Officials have predicted the project's first phase would overload three intersections in the area during and after construction.

The foundation will pay $1.68 million toward traffic improvements and encourage employees to car pool.

The foundation paid the city $50.4 million last year for the 12-acre site.

Between 2008 and 2010, it plans to build about 600,000 square feet of offices in two buildings, with 412 underground parking spaces. It plans a third building by 2021.

The parking garage, which the city will help pay for and eventually own, will be used by the public and the foundation. Construction is expected to start early next year.

The headquarters will have a visitors center facing Fifth Avenue where the public can learn about the foundation's mission and the work it does. The center will be part of the garage. Exhibit design firm Ralph Applebaum Associates has been hired to design the center.

The headquarters will be developed and owned by Iris Holdings, an affiliate of the foundation. Iris is working with a development team made up of The Seneca Group, Sellen Construction, architect NBBJ, landscape designer Gustafson Guthrie Nichol and engineer Arup.

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