Amazon, the ubiquitous online marketplace revealed renderings of a helix tower for their new Virginia headquarters. The eye-catching glass-sheathed edifice appears to twist upward and is covered by layers of trees and greenery.

This big reveal comes almost three years after Amazon had over 230 cities across North America scrambling to bid to be the possible second headquarters for the online behemoth. Drooling cities spared no expense trying to lure Amazon to their district, with the expectation that it would bring thousands of jobs and spawn development in their region.

Helix rising – in the background

Arlington County Virginia was the lucky winner. Nestled near the banks of the Potomac River across the water from Washington D.C. , where many speculate that this region was selected due to its proximity to America’s capital – where Amazon could lobby and influence lawmakers to pass friendly Ecommerce legislation.

Initially, New York City was chosen as the winner, but after Amazon received loads of backlash from local politicians and community members for trying to hustle the city out of millions of dollars in tax incentives and financial promises – they backed out.

What is a helix?

When images of the unique structure surfaced online, there was a lot of chatter about its appearance. This was presumably intentional. Amazon knows that this project will be watched and dissected by people and organizations all over the world – so it better look cool and spark dialogue.

The helix structure winds and twists like a spiral staircase towards the sky. A helix is a geometric shape like a corkscrew that is three dimensional in structure – think DNA strands.

Amazon’s Helix Structure

The structure will rise over 350 ft. (107 meters) and consist of 21 storeys. It is slated to host several alternative work settings for the employees, consisting of both indoor and outdoor locations. Situated on a 2.5 acre (1 hectare) plot, the location will have numerous green spaces for employees to take in the natural beauty of the outdoors.

“We’re doing a lot on the site to connect people to nature,” said lead architect and NBBJ principal Dale Alberda in a video interview, adding that the design aims to symbolize both nature and science. “But with the Helix, we really take that to the extreme,” he said in a video interview. “We’re building a series of indoor atriums and gardens that are not a conservatory or a place you just visit, but a place you can actually go and work.”

NBBJ principal Dale Alberda

Public access

The helix structure itself will only be open to the public a couple weekends a month, according to officials at Amazon, however, other areas of the site will be open to the public to hang out and enjoy.

There will be public art installations, a 250 seat amphitheater and a host of plazas that will feature food trucks, shops, farmers markets and much more. The intention is to make the site feel less like a stuffy, corporate, exclusive headquarters and more like the surrounding local community- inclusive for all.

Outdoor public spaces

Long term plans and other projects

NBBJ the architect for this project which is also headquartered in Seattle Washington (home of Amazon’s first HQ) has designed other corporate headquarters for the likes of Samsung and Microsoft.

NBBJ recently unveiled plans to develop the “city of the future” in Shenzhen China – a largely car-free city that will be the size of Manaco. This city within a city will accommodate over 80,000 people and will have shops, schools, and have an ultra-modern aesthetic.

Amazon’s new HQ2 will eventually host around 25,000 employees and stimulate the local economy directly.

Can anything stop Amazon?

Roman Kingsley

Journalist based in the United States and Nigeria, focusing on Real Estate Development and the stories emerging in and around the built environment.

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