The Spheres is the latest addition to Amazon’s downtown Seattle headquarters. The innovative building offers employees a work environment that’s more like a rainforest than an office. The name Understory refers to the lush habitat between the rainforest floor and canopy and provides a fully immersive, 360-degree experience where visitors can get up close and personal with the science, engineering, and plants behind The Spheres.
Nominating Company: YCD Multimedia, Inc., New York, New York
Venue: Amazon, Downtown Seattle Headquarters, Seattle, Washington
Project: The Spheres at Amazon’s Downtown Seattle Headquarters
Category: Experiential Design & Planning
The Sphere’s workspace is only for badged employees so Amazon set out to establish a free, public visitor center at The Spheres. This spaced was called Understory. Amazon assembled an accomplished team of local Seattle companies to design the exhibit space.
The team needed a design that immerses visitors into experiences as lifelike as possible. Using digital storytelling, the team designs included:
A central media installation designed by Belle & Wissell where visitors can take in sweeping interior views of The Spheres above, as well as stunning macro footage of its world-class plant collection. The experience is composed of a large curved direct view LED display, surrounded by direct view LED columns at regular intervals.
Interpretive zones within, demarcated by pools of light and featuring directional audio, offer voiceover descriptions of the plants on view. A generative soundscape composed by Jesse Solomon Clark enhances the experience. Five modular exhibits, situated throughout Understory, offer more information about Amazon, The Spheres, and the world-class plant collection within.
Each station features a physical interactive (designed by Studio Matthews) and touchscreen interactive (designed by Belle & Wissell) presenting unique topics through a playful interface, encouraging discovery.
Hardware meets software:
The CMS solution behind Understory is critical to its success in presenting Understory’s unique and immersive media content. To meet the agency’s requirement of delivering their design, YCD’s Cnario CMS was specified into the project by Whitlock to enable the massive sized digital canvas to be designed, distributed and managed to deliver:
-Visual storytelling with light, sound, and interactive experiences, curated across a series of Leyard Planar direct view LED columns/totems, showing stunning macro footage of its world-class plant collection
-A central Leyard Planar direct view LED display arranged in a semi-circle around the audience to give the sense of a Sphere with pixel-perfect video and synchronized playback across multiple displays, orientations, PCs, and GPUs.
Visitors are able to relax and enjoy an immersive plant experience, coupled with a generative soundscape. The media installation at Understory is made up of a large curved LED wall and 11 supporting LED columns by Leyard Planar that were designed to immerse visitors in plant life while providing exceptional views into The Spheres above.
Media installation focused on macro views of The Sphere’s plant collection and Sphere fly-through tour sequences. Themed exhibits contain multi-touch interactives (Sphere Discovery Stations) to engage visitors with media-rich stories. Input sensors enhance the experience—even before they touch it—as the digital content responds to the movement of their hands.
-CBS News “‘You can’t be afraid to think big’: Inside Amazon’s Spheres,” 2018
-USA Today “What’s inside Amazon’s glass Spheres? Hundreds of cool plants, hundreds of employees,” 2018
-U.S. News “Striking Amazon ‘Spheres’ Landmark Opens in Downtown Seattle,” 2018
– Amazon – Client (End Client)
– Belle & Wissell – Media Designer (Apex Award)
– YCD Multimedia – Digital Signage Content Management System
– Whitlock – AV Systems Design and Integration
– Leyard Planar – Display Manufacturer
– Graham Baba – Architect
– Studio Matthews – Exhibit Designer
– Dillon Works – Fabricator
– Jill Randerson Exhibit Management – Project Management
The Spheres at Amazon’s Downtown Seattle Headquarters won a DSE 2019 APEX Award in the Experiential Design & Planning category.