Amazon Receives OK for Climbable Office Tower

Building across river from DC will rival Washington Monument on area's skyline
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 2, 2021 2:22 PM CST
Updated Apr 23, 2022 5:45 PM CDT
Amazon Plans a Climbable Office Tower
This artist rendering provided by Amazon shows plans for the company's headquarters complex in Arlington, Va.   (NBBJ/Amazon via AP)

(Newser) Update: Amazon won local approval Saturday to build a helix-shaped tower to anchor its second headquarters in Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, DC. The vote by the Arlington County Board was unanimous, the AP reports. Board Chair Katie Cristol had said officials sought feedback from residents and worked with Amazon on changes over the past year, per WJLA. "I hope that people feel like they've had an opportunity and a voice to weigh in on this plan that is going to have a major impact on the skyline and quality of life, and we hope that's for the better, in both cases," she said. The county's planning commission endorsed the project this month on a 9-0 vote. Our story from February 2021 follows:

Amazon revealed plans Tuesday for the next phase of its headquarters development in Virginia, featuring a signature 350-foot, helix-shaped office tower that can be climbed from the outside like a mountain hike. The head-turning building is the centerpiece of a proposal that features multiple 22-story office buildings in addition to those already under construction. The company is looking to accommodate 25,000 new workers over the coming years in the Arlington County neighborhoods across the Potomac River from the nation's capital, the AP reports. The company said in a blog post that the building is designed to help people connect to nature. "The natural beauty of a double helix can be seen throughout our world, from the geometry of our own DNA to the elemental form of galaxies, weather patterns, pinecones, and seashells," the company said. "The Helix at our Arlington headquarters will offer a variety of alternative work environments for Amazon employees amidst lush gardens and flourishing trees native to the region."

Sketches show trees and green space spiraling along the exterior of the building, which in addition to a helix resembles a Christmas tree or a soft-serve ice cream cone. Less flattering comments on social media likened it to a poop emoji. The company said it will open the exterior mountain climb to the public on weekend tours. The building itself is deemed "alternative work space" by the company, in contrast to the more traditional office space in the three 22-story buildings that will surround the helix, which will be slightly taller than the other three buildings. Because skyscrapers are prohibited in the District of Columbia, and the Amazon buildings will be among the tallest in Arlington County, from some vantage points the helix will dominate the region's skyline like no structure other than the Washington Monument. In a statement, the chairman of the Arlington County Board called the helix design "interesting" and said county residents would have a chance to weigh in on the design before it's approved. The company hopes to begin work next year, with a projected completion date of 2025.

(Read more Amazon stories.)

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