Amazon opens its giant glass ‘Spheres’ — a workplace like no other

SEATTLE — After years of construction, the Amazon Spheres are open. And fitting of an event as grand a scale as this, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos during a ceremony earlier Monday, turned to Alexa for help.

“Alexa! Open the Spheres,” commanded Bezos.

And Alexa’s response, “OK, Jeff.”

The Spheres — three of them interconnected — are a workplace unlike any other.

“It’s primarily an office space for Amazon employees,” said John Schoettler, Amazon’s vice president of Global Real Estate and Facilities. “It’s a place for them to come and collaborate and innovate with other co-workers.”

In the Spheres, employees can meet in treehouses suspended under 40-plus-foot trees or in sitting areas and walking paths alongside cascading waterfalls.

The Spheres have 40,000 plants of 400 different types of species, spanning five continents and 50 countries. Many of the plants and trees have been at the location since May.

The largest plant is a 55-foot ficus tree dubbed "Rubi", which was first planted in California in 1969 and was transported here during the summer.

For the Amazon horticulturist in charge of the plants' health, he still gets excited walking through the area.

"I'm still inspired," said horticulturist Ron Gagliardo. "I walk by those terrarium boxes upstairs with the begonias. I walk by the living wall and I just look and I'm like, how did this happen?"

The Amazon Spheres have no cubicles, and no office desks. And don't worry about the co-worker who messes with the office thermometer either.

"A normal office is 68 degrees and like 30 percent humidity," said Gagliardo. "You come in here and it's slightly warmer. It's 72 degrees and 60 percent humidity."

It's meant for Amazon employees to hopefully inspire them to create the next big idea or solve problems.

"We wanted to give it a spirit, a soul, a center for Amazon and for the city to rally around," said the Amazon Spheres' lead architect, David Sadinsky, an architect  with the design firm NBBJ. "And this collection of people and plants made for a nice theme."

The Spheres are equally impressive on the outside. According to Amazon, they're built with 620 tons of steel, 12 million pounds of concrete and more than 2,600 panes of glass.

Sadinsky said a mock-up of the Spheres was tested time and again for several things, like earthquakes, and wind.

The Spheres are two independent buildings, which Sadinsky said consists of a concrete building on the interior and  steel shell on the exterior.

"Believe or not, on a very microscopic level, the building is moving right now," said Sadinsky. "The building is alive every day. During the summer, it's a little bit more dramatic. When the sun comes in, we can physically see the building move during the course of the day."

If you are interested in getting a tour for yourself, you either need to work for Amazon, or if you don't, then you need to sign up on the Amazon HQ tours website.  Be aware, though, that public tours of the Spheres is booked all the way to June.