Explore the history of The Spheres
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
    Spheres Proposal Image.png
    Beginning with an idea similar to a collaborative indoor garden, The Spheres were first envisioned as a single 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
    The first plant is cultivated by Amazon horticulturists
    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.

    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, Amazon Horticulture sourced plants from botanical gardens, private growers, and universities all over the world years before The Spheres opened. These plants are still grown and cared for in the Amazon greenhouse as part of Horticulture's larger plant collection. Plants regularly circulate between The Spheres and the greenhouses dependent on the season.
  • June 2015
    Foundation Image.png
    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
    Steel Structure Image.png
    Not perfectly sphere, The Spheres’ steel frame is actually a geometric shape called the pentagonal hexecontahedron. The shape is based on one of 26 known subsets of Catalan solids named for the Belgian mathematician who first described them in 1865. The frame of the three Spheres consists of 180 elongated pentagonal modules. 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 is panel put in place
    Glass Image.png
    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 chosen 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 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
    Welcoming the first plant
    Amazon Spheres viewing for local media 5/4/17
    The Spheres’ first plant resident was an Australian tree fern, Cyathea australis by name. Amazon Horticulture chose this particular specimen because it is one of their collection’s very first plants. It also was the first of many plant donations from our collaborative partners at the University of Washington botany greenhouse. The tree fern was first added to the collection in late 2014 and was grown and cared for at Horticulture's offsite greenhouse until its delivery to The Spheres 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
    The Living Wall 1.1.jpg
    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
    The Spheres Grand Opening January 2018
    Photo by JORDAN STEAD / Amazon
    The Spheres celebrated its grand opening on January 30, 2018. They were dedicated by Amazon Founder and Executive Chairman Jeff Bezos, former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, County Executive Dow Constantine, and Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, using an Alexa voice command as the ceremonial opening.
  • Today
    The Spheres remain a landmark of downtown Seattle
    People in motion on a pathway within The Spheres
    Photo by DAVE QUIGG / Amazon
    Since its opening, Amazonians, guests, and visitors have walked through The Spheres to take in the stunning flora and unique design. The Spheres stand as a recognizable landmark in South Lake Union, Seattle. On-staff horticulturists conduct visits daily to care for the plant life and envision further ways to innovate inside The Spheres. For an inside look with the horticulturists, follow them on Instagram and Facebook.

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.