Amazon Unveils Nature-Infused HQ2 Design That Includes The Helix

Amazon dropped big announcements this week. In the span of 24 hours, its CEO, Jeff Bezos, revealed he’ll be stepping down from his role later this year. Then the corporate giant unveiled its plan for its second headquarters to be built in Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington, DC. The 2.8 million-square-foot HQ2, PenPlace, will transform Arlington’s skyline. Designed by global architecture firm NBBJ, who led the design of Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, PenPlace is the next step of Amazon’s expansion.

Amazon tasked the firm with blending singular architectural and ecological elements to create a sustainable, healthy environment for Amazon employees and the local community.

“Increasingly, we see leading companies invest in these [energy] strategies,” NBBJ’s lead architect on the project, Dale Alberda, told Architectural Digest. PenPlace will feature an all-electric central heating and cooling system that will run on 100% renewable energy from a southern Virginia solar farm. It will also seek LEED Platinum certification.

Of the three planned office towers, the most notable is PenPlace’s centerpiece structure, which resembles its namesake. A double helix swirling skyward, The Helix interweaves manicured gardens and native plants and trees.

“It draws its formal inspiration directly from the natural world, where the double helix geometry can be found in many forms, including plants, seashells, DNA strands, and even our galaxy,” Alberda said.

In addition to 2.5 acres of open public space, an amphitheater for outdoor concerts and movie screenings, and a forest grove, PenPlace will offer street-facing retail and restaurant options, as well as dog parks, day care facilities, and spaces for food trucks.

With its new Arlington headquarters, Amazon plans to create 25,000 jobs and invest $2.5 billion in the southern city over the next decade. The PenPlace project broke ground in early 2020 and is slated for completion in 2025.

“When the public health situation improves and as regulations allow, we will continue to see value in bringing our employees together in a physical space to cross-pollinate ideas and foster collaboration. With our hiring and construction on pace, we’re ready for the next chapter,” Amazon said in a statement.

Amazon selected Arlington for HQ2 in 2018. NBBJ, opening its 12th location in Washington, DC, will be close by to supervise the project.