What Amazon’s Domination of Seattle Downtown Office Space Tells us About the Company


Amazon soon will occupy 15 percent of all of office space in Seattle. Bloomberg is reporting on Amazon’s expansion in the middle of Seattle:

Over the years, founder and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos has made clear his disdain for the free lunches, massages and other perks commonplace in the suburban enclaves of Google, Apple and Facebook. His big advantage in the amenities arms race is a commitment to preserving an urban campus, no matter how big his company gets. (…)

When its spheres and three surrounding towers are completed, the company will have 10 million square feet of office space in Seattle, more than 15 percent of the city’s inventory, on a campus that occupies more than 10 square blocks. That will provide space for Amazon to more than double in size, to 50,000 Seattle workers in the next decade. “How big can Amazon get and stay in Seattle—that’s what they’re trying to find out,” says Glenn Kelman, the CEO of online real estate company Redfin. “Can you create a massive company in the middle of a city?”

In a lot of ways, it is like Amazon’s business: Sitting in the middle of an ecosystem (the city) and strengthening that to Amazon’s advantage, new satellites (e.g. restaurants, food trucks etc.) having sprung up around the company’s workers needs. Amazon is integrating itself into the city and is thinking about what may be missing from the offices and work places the company is creating:

[Amazon’s ‘biospheres’] were inspired by Amazon research indicating that a key thing missing from typical work environments is a link to the natural world, said John Schoettler, the company’s global real estate director. The challenge was creating an environment conducive to plants without being hot and muggy like a greenhouse; the spheres had to be comfortable for humans.

A staff horticulturist scoured the globe for species that can thrive in a cool, dry environment. Many of the plants are endangered species, meaning that the spheres double as a conservation project. Schoettler said the design was chosen to be an architectural focal point in the city, similar to the iconic Space Needle. “We wanted to create a place employees would be proud of and proud to bring
their families,” he said.

Reading this feature article at Bloomberg, I constantly was thinking about how industry analyst Ben Thompson in a recent episode of his podcast laid out how and why Amazon is the ultimate platform company.

The company culture behind Alexa, the marketplace and AWS even shows with how Amazon is planning offices and the work places for the company’s ever growing staff.

At the same time, Amazon’s growth leads to the company increasingly dominating Seattle, and with this come the debates one would expect. Another parallel.

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