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March 21, 2019

First look at Frank Gehry's ‘anonymous' Building X for Facebook in Redmond

Journal Staff Reporter

Renderings by Gehry Partners [enlarge]
The five-story structure will have about 351,000 square feet of office and lab space.

Facebook paid $20 million in December 2017 for the over 15-acre Crane Electronics property at 10201-10301 Willows Road N.E. in Redmond.

Reports surfaced last year that the company would raze the two existing office buildings, which date from 1984, and build what has become known as Building X. It will occupy the north portion of the property, at 10301 Willows Road, on about 9 acres. There's no plan announced yet for the south portion at 10201 Willows Road.

Building X has its first city design review tomorrow. Gehry Partners, led by Frank Gehry, is designing the project. Gustafson Guthrie Nichol is the landscape architect. CPL is the engineer. No general contractor has been announced, and the city of Redmond's permit website doesn't list the project.

Puget Sound Business Journal reported last September that the goal was to break ground this June, with completion by 2022.

The five-story building will total around 689,000 square feet, about half of which is parking. Three-and-a-half of those levels will have structured parking for 807 vehicles. The site slopes down to Willows Road, with one level divided between parking and offices.

The top three levels of offices and lab space will total about 351,000 square feet. Floors four and five look to have plates with roughly 120,000 square feet each.

Skylights and an atrium will connect all three office levels, as will an internal open stair. This “supports Facebook's goal of promoting employee interaction. The atrium will facilitate the passage of natural light from the skylights into every floor of the office.”

Gehry is famous for eye-catching projects like Seattle’s MoPOP, but Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the architect he didn’t want a flashy, iconic building.

Gehry Partners writes, “Building X is a laboratory for engineers at Facebook Reality Labs. The lab team asked for a building like Bell Labs … the great building that Eero Saarinen designed in New Jersey.”

Facebook Reality Labs and Oculus create virtual reality and augmented reality products.

Gehry Partners continues, “When Frank first met with (Facebook CEO) Mark Zuckerberg, Mark told him he did not want a flashy, iconic building. He wanted a building that functioned well, but that was anonymous. He wanted an architecture that expressed the company's values: modest, forward-looking, unfinished, a work in progress, very flexible, and most of all a building that would fly under the radar.”

Building X will be a little over 76 feet tall. The project will target Salmon-Safe certification and LEED silver certification, and meet Redmond's Green Building Incentive Program.

As part of GGN's landscape plan, native plans will be restored. Gehry Partners says, “The intent is to return as much of the site as possible to its natural state by removing non-native plant material and replacing it with native species.” Only eight of 47 mature trees will be removed.

Facebook has been steadily increasing its presence both along Willows Road and in South Lake Union. And there are rumors of leasing interest at the Spring District in Bellevue.

Gehry Partners says that it's also now constructing a third building for Facebook at its Menlo Park Campus. Last year it completed the second building, MPK 21, with 524,000 square feet. MPK 21 targeted LEED gold certification, and has many green features including solar panels, which are not currently indicated for Building X.

The firm has two other buildings in our area. The first is Dexter Station, where Facebook leases about 335,000 square feet. Capstone Partners completed that building, at 1101 Dexter Ave. N., in 2016.

The second is MoPOP, or the Museum of Pop Culture, which opened in 2000 on the Seattle Center campus as the Experience Music Project. It was founded and developed by Paul Allen.


Brian Miller can be reached by email at brian.miller@djc.com or by phone at (206) 219-6517.

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