“There are people who don’t like capitalism, and people who don’t like PCs. But there’s no one who likes the PC who doesn’t like Microsoft.” – Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft
Microsoft is a leading global tech company founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen on April 4, 1975, venturing into computer software, hardware, mobile and gaming systems, and cloud services. With over 600 offices, its main headquarters is a half-hour away from Seattle in Redmond, Washington. Though located initially in Albuquerque, NM, the company relocated to Bellevue in 1979. In 1986, they shifted by demolishing the once existing home to chicken farms in the 1920s to pave the way for this campus.
Microsoft’s Redmond campus spans over 500 acres and comprises a network of buildings which started with being 83 in number to 125 during current times. The campus consists of offices, workplaces, events, indoor and outdoor recreational spaces, places to stay, restaurants, shops and common rejuvenating outdoors. They were numbered sequentially, except number 7 due to a delay in permitting that became indefinite. The list seems never-ending, although the vibe of Work-Live-Play enhances the concept of Learn to Earn. More than a company, it appears to be a university in itself; instead, if it becomes a city on its own, it will be the 27th largest in the state by population, as it houses over 50,000 employees in the Redmond headquarters.
Microsoft Visitor Centre
Building no. 92 within campus designed by Seattle based NBBJ, lets one encounter the company’s past, present and future. It serves as an experiential centre similar to any Microsoft store where one can see and experience hands-on with their products. Situated at the heart of the campus, it serves as a hub and is the first space open to visitors. It comprises learning spaces, training labs, a corporate library with archives. It was revamped adaptively from the former Eddie Bauer headquarters and became the west campus’s centrepiece.
Despite having hidden entry points, odd lengths with random core locations, the new design created a substantial outwardly facing building with improved circulation and an upsurge of usable areas. With seamless flooring and subtle hues, a touch of wood forms a sober backdrop to showcase what the company is all about.
At Microsoft, one belief is prevalent that the future holds in the amalgamation of science with arts, and it will or should be a bright and light-hearted spirited place with activities around, complementing the surrounding landscape. The client and the Californian based Studio O+A adapted this “Activity Landscape” – Learn by Doing concept from outside to inside.
Microsoft’s Envisioning Centre is a lab, where the spaces were reimagined unconventionally for the workstations and meeting rooms as technology loaded super amenity space. Designers proposed a wooden frame having acoustic 3d panel geodesic dome cubicles considering an all-in-one functional area with seamless services in the work environment. It is a multi-dimensional, locally and globally interactive space with advanced video-conferencing and live-tech info walls.
Some open insulated ceilings and some with hanging panels provide different dynamics to the premises overall. Interesting play with coloured light cues indicates the room’s status; green for available; blue for open and on display; red for occupied, let one guess from distance to what is happening within.
Better Environment Brags Health with Definite Wealth
Microsoft headquarters is not any average corporate office as it boasts a seemingly limitless number of spots for collaboration or solo work, letting employees have the liberty to switch up their environment whenever they like. They take care of not only the environment around them but also the health of their employees.
In 2009, a shopping mall named “The Commons” was completed on the campus, comprising 1.4 million sq.ft. of retail space providing everything one could need to be on campus. The campus swanks places to grab grub with several restaurants, coffee shops, MOD–made on-demand pizzas, soup bars and even a Pike Place operation. Gastropubs let one loosen up their selves after a hectic day. There are mobile carriers, a credit union, a music shop, a hair salon, and an auto-body shop for car servicing.
A pond nicknamed “Lake Bill” over the founder Bill Gates name was between the original 83 buildings and was used for post-project successful launch celebrations, namely for Bill or managers involved, taking a drip or being thrown in for fun.
Building 4 in the Redmond campus was a challenge to the office innovation team to set the standard of how offices will work and appear to function in the subsequent years. It resulted in a prototype designed by Studio O+A and the team from Microsoft to accommodate the community of thinkers, doers, makers and innovators. The company’s history inspires the office décor at the Pacific by incorporating the wooden surroundings and Seattle’s grimed-era fashion trend of blue denim and heavy plaids.
The 59000 sq.ft. is treated with warm humour with checker patterns and bold hues playfully spread across the wall and floor treatments.
The flexibility in the working environment with different seating arrangements where creative juices can flow unhindered by sitting together or if required seclusion then small focus pods help one ponder alone. A bike workshop is provided for employees to rent out bicycles and head out for a ride around the surrounding trails and caffeine loaded places create a bustling hub to the hustle at this Building 4.
Numerous spots for R&R, movement and exercise, within the Redmond campus can never be problematic for the well-being of the employees. A fantastic soccer field to kick some stress out and bocce ball, basketball, softball and beach volley courts. Designated walking and running trails ranging from two to five miles cannot be less than a workout on the treadmill.
There can be bugs in the apps but not at the treehouses designed within this campus. Apart from 100 buildings, Microsoft offers their employees an option to ideate at times within a natural setting through these Treehouses, comprising two enclosed meeting spaces and an elevated space called the Crow’s Nest. Tech facilities without WiFi can never be complete, so they can still be connected even if one wants seclusion within their nest.
They operate a commuter bus service called “The Connector“, providing a non-stop service from the Redmond campus to neighbourhoods in Seattle and also run a shuttle bus service, called the “Shuttle Connect”, within the campus.
The Journey from Linux to Windows – Change is Constant
Post-1986, the first significant expansion covering 1.7million sq.ft. built-area of the campus on 260 acres of land came in 1992. Further in February 2006, Microsoft had announced an extension of 1.1 million sq.ft. of the area to create more space for around 15000 employees and to include prominent branding and recreational areas.
In November 2017, Microsoft announced plans to demolish the site’s original 12 X-shaped buildings built in the 1980’s era on the older East Campus and replace them with 17 new buildings, adding 2.5 million sq.ft. to house 8000 additional employees. The extended campus scheduled to open in 2023 will have four floors of underground parking for around 6500 vehicles, a set of 875 wells to harness geothermal energy through a geo-exchange system of water pipes by supplying heating and cooling to buildings. Microsoft believes in creating a sustainable environment and does plan to be carbon negative by 2030.
This revision termed ‘Refresh Project’ consists of a plan with buildings arranged like an urban neighbourhood clustered into distinct villages, with glass-wrapped office buildings proposed along a skewed grid surrounding a central green aspiring to be “more open and less formal” than the current campus. On the design side, teams from architecture firms of LMN, NBBJ, WRNS Studio and ZGF Architects are on board for the redesigning of 3 million sq.ft. the project, with contractors Skanska, Balfour Beatty, GLY and Sellen with Berger Partnership as the lead landscape architect partnering with OLIN.
Project management consultancy was awarded to CBRE, JLL and OAC Services Inc. teams, handling roughly 72 acres on Microsoft’s 500 acres Redmond Campus. Each of the five villages was allotted to different architects where Seattle based LMN Architects designed Whatcom Village, NBBJ coming up with Sammamish Village. New York-based architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro designed the Building R, with several branches across the USA based ZGF Architects LLP planning the Washington Village. The Chelan Village is planned by San Francisco based WRNS Studio.
This project is pedestrian and bicycle-friendly, with no internal campus roads restricting the traffic to the perimeter roads leading to the underground garage. An 1100-foot-long pedestrian bridge will be connecting the new campus buildings to the Redmond Technology light rail station and the West campus part of the site. Microsoft, along with Sound Transit and the City of Redmond, will join hands to fund the bridge.
A principal goal of campus modernisation is creating a healthy, inspiring workplace that supports employees’ needs. The Refresh Project will have building design four to five stories in height with ease of access for all and encourage physical mobility and interaction between employees. Spacious and well-lit atriums are improving the infusion of daylighting and courtyards for connections with the outdoors. A unique strategy of implementing sustainable policies to support the symbiosis between people and surrounding space embodies the region’s ecology. In addition to previous facilities, the plan includes a cricket pitch and a 2-acre central plaza with a capacity of 12000 people.
Rob Towne, the regional director of Puget Sound, Global real Estate & Facilities at Microsoft, states that the firms selected for the Refresh Project would bring their vision to reality, having more open and modern infrastructure, focus on sustainability, connectedness and accessibility. He says, “The workplaces will feature more natural light and foster the type of creativity that will lead to ongoing innovation, advance the industry and benefit our customers.”