SEATTLE - Of all of Amazon.com 's transformations of Seattle's urban core, perhaps no single project has drawn as much curiosity as the glass domes now slowly emerging.
The fruit of a bold design, the so-called Spheres will serve as a haven of carefully tended nature geared to letting Amazonians break free from their cubicles and think disruptive thoughts. It's an internet-era, Pacific Rim answer to the architecturally astounding gardens set up by European monarchs during the Enlightenment era.
The structures are also the architectural crown jewel of Amazon's $4 billion investment in building an urban campus, an eye-catching landmark that symbolizes the rise of what 20 years ago was a fledging online bookstore into a global e-commerce and cloud-computing leviathan.
"We wanted to do something that was not only great for employees, but for the city as a whole," John Schoettler , Amazon's real-estate director, said in an interview. In Schoettler's view, the Spheres also reflect his company's character. "It's all about our pioneering spirit, our being inventors," he said.
The erection of the Spheres comes at a time when several dominant tech companies, flush with cash, are making their physical marks upon the world in the form of innovative office space. Apple is building a futuristic, circle-shaped campus in Silicon Valley scheduled to open later this year; Google is also planning a shiny new mothership.