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Explore the building
Building The Spheres was a project that required extensive teamwork, testing, and experimentation. From February 2013 to January 2018, numerous businesses local to the Pacific Northwest collaborated to make The Spheres possible. Read about some of the big milestones.
  • February 2013
    Proposal of The Spheres design
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    An indoor garden from the start, The Spheres were first envisioned as a curved glass building filled with plants and tall trees. During early planning, the design team studied the form and function of several sphere-like conservatories around the world, including the UK’s Kew Gardens, the Mitchell Park Conservatory in Milwaukee, WI, and La Biosfera in Genoa, Italy. Eventually, three distinct buildings emerged, and their shape and geometry evolved over the course of the design process.
  • April 2014
    First plant cultivated by greenhouse
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    One driving philosophy behind the plant collection was the concept that The Spheres should feel like “year five on day one.” In light of this principle, the team sourced plants from botanical gardens, private growers, and universities all over the world years before The Spheres opened. These plants still grow in a greenhouse in Woodinville, WA to sustain The Spheres today. Plants regularly circulate between The Spheres and the greenhouses dependent on the season. The very first plant logged in The Spheres plant collection was a Mountain Cacao specimen. Also known as Herrania balaensis, this Ecuadorean cacao species produces pods that can be used to make a sweet and high quality chocolate.
  • June 2015
    Groundbreaking
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    June 2015 marked the start of construction of The Spheres. The Spheres are really two different buildings- an outer frame with an interior concrete core. The core was made with 12 million pounds of concrete reinforced by 2.5 million pounds of rebar. At the base of The Spheres, a 400,000-pound ring beam transfers the heavy loads of gravity, wind, and seismic forces from the glass-and-steel façade to columns in the floors below.
  • March 2016
    Steel structure complete
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    A geometric shape called the pentagonal hexecontahedron forms The Spheres’ steel frame. The Spheres’ shape is based on one of 26 known subsets of Catalan solids named for the Belgian mathematician who first described them in 1865. The building consists of elongated pentagonal modules that appear 180 times across the three spheres. By connecting each angle of the module to a centralized hub, the architects created a fluid yet modular pattern that could be repeated throughout the building. A steel fabricator in Oregon mass-produced the modules that were shipped onsite and assembled like a puzzle.
  • December 2016
    Last glass panel put in place
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    The Spheres’ façade contains 2,643 panes of glass. The last pane was put into place in December 2016. Our plants need more daylight than the Seattle weather usually provides so the type of glass selected for the façade was important. The glass we chose is ultra-clear and energy-efficient, with a film interlayer to keep out infrared wavelengths that produce unwanted heat. To test it out, the Amazon horticulture team built a small greenhouse in Woodinville, WA using the glass planned for The Spheres. This mockup greenhouse allowed the team to test light levels, temperature, and humidity in a realistic environment.
  • May 2017
    First plant in The Spheres
    Amazon Spheres viewing for local media 5/4/17
    The Spheres’ first plant resident was an Australian tree fern, known as Cyathea australis. The horticulture team chose this particular specimen because it is one of the collection’s first plants. It also was the first of many plant donations from our collaborative partners at the University of Washington botany greenhouse. This tree was first logged into the collection in late 2014 and was grown and cared for at The Spheres’ offsite greenhouse in Woodinville, WA until its delivery to the building on May 4, 2017. Today, this plant continues to thrive in the Fernery, the garden on the second floor of the 6th Avenue sphere.
  • June 2017
    Largest tree planted
    Rubi (The Spheres’ Tallest Tree) Arrives in Seattle
    The Spheres’ largest resident, stands nearly 49 feet tall, 22 feet wide, and weighs nearly 36,000 pounds. Named for its scientific name, Ficus rubiginosa, Rubi was first planted in 1969 at the Berylwood Tree Farm in Somis, California. This species of tree was selected for a number or reasons–including size, aesthetics, and ability to thrive in the indoor environment that The Spheres provides. Before being planted in the 7th Avenue sphere, Rubi made a 1,200-mile, cross-country journey to its final home. Because of the tree’s size, the top of the 7th Avenue sphere was removed, and the tree was craned in through the top of the building.
  • October 2017
    Living walls complete
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    With more than 25,000 plants woven into 4,000 square feet of wall, the Living Walls are an innovative demonstration of biodiversity. These walls are the brainchild of Horticulture Program Manager, Ben Eiben. Ben and his team assembled the living walls by growing the plants on mesh panels at the greenhouse. When the panels were ready, they were transported and attached to the growing surface. With careful preparation, the team assembled The Spheres’ tallest wall in only two weeks!
  • January 2018
    Grand opening
  • 2013
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  • 2018

Students tour Amazon greenhouse

For Earth Day, students and teachers from the Environmental and Adventure School in Kirkland, WA visited the greenhouse behind The Spheres.

Bringing The Spheres’ green walls to life

See how our horticulture team was able to pack plant biodiversity into every inch of space with The Spheres’ living wall.