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March 26, 2018

Microsoft Campus in Redmond, Washington: History & Tour

The Microsoft Redmond campus is simply known as the Microsoft Campus, This campus is the headquarters of Microsoft (One Microsoft Way) in Washington’s Redmond. Microsoft established themselves in Redmond back in 1986, a few days before the company went public, after which it expanded to a 500-acre occupation by 2015 (Yu & Bass, 2015).The expansion of Microsoft has been in the adoption of more labor as well as more grounds for their companies. I had the honor of visiting the Redmond campus for the 25th anniversary of the Microsoft MVP summit! I was able to explore the vast buildings around Redmond and wondering about the history and growth of the area. Here is what I discovered:

The Redmond campus was part of Microsoft’s plan drawn by Wright Runstad consisting of six original buildings in 1986 (Romano, 2007). The land was initially designed to be a shopping Center, but the firm helped Microsoft establish their offices, employing less than 800 employees (Romano, 2007). Several years later, the campus developed into the biggest campus for the company covering over ten million feet square feet in 2016. The campus has been instrumental in the development of technology and Microsoft products.

Microsoft headquarters beam with the elegance of futuristic energy and optimism. The headquarters has many buildings scattered on the campus, which one must take a shuttle to navigate, as the parts meeting different needs are too vast to be covered on foot (Yarow, 2013). A peek into these buildings reveal the office 34, the office of the CEO, and office 33, which is where Microsoft plays its future of the home and the workplace, displaying the concepts that Microsoft is developing, how they envision the integration of their technology into the daily home and work ideas of the future (Yarow, 2013). This is part of the contribution of Microsoft into the designing of future space structures and planning.

Besides this, the campus headquarters provide the employees with restaurants and snacks, as well as open spaces where meetings can be organized and places where employees or visitors can share a snack (Yarow, 2013). The company ensures the provision of the sports fields for games like soccer and volleyball. The Commons room is home to magnificent sculptures, music band performances and ping pong games (Yarow, 2013). These provisions not only provide for the aesthetic condition of the campus but integrate with the work-life balance for the employees.

The offices at the campus are in varied shapes. A recent renovation seeks to increase the open space available for the offices so that more employees can work together (Levy, 2017).  Even then, the offices on the campus are varied from open offices to close offices, depending on the nature of work Yarow, 2013). The interiors of the company offices are laced with friendly colors, office plants and subtle pieces of art which make the offices an interesting place to work, with the company logos on the walls, the technology ideas exhibited in the hallways, all stimulate the workers to focus on the development projects that define Microsoft (Yarow, 2013).  The campus cares for the now for the employees, in that it provides them with conducive working environments. It cares for the future too, by being a think tank of innovation, exhibition point for new technology ideas, as well as the predictions of a technology revolution through their products.

The company, with the acceleration of production and sales, sought to begin a redevelopment program in 2005. The 1 billion dollars project was to add 1.1 million square feet, to the already existent 2 million square feet of the Safeco building (Dudley, 2006). The redevelopment was meant to create more space for employees who would join the company over the next three years, and the project was to run over a period of about ten years (Dudley, 2006). It also covered a plan to attract more millennial workers as employees for the company (Yu & Bass, 2015). This step was just one of the many phases that the campus has undergone, and is still undergoing to fit the needs of the employees and that of the technology world.

In 2006, the company announced that it would be redefining the buildings of the campus, with the addition of 3.1 million square feet for more than 12, 000 employees, plans which were delayed by the 2008 recession, leaving only the construction of one building running (Yu & Bass, 2015). Even then, this plan formed the basis of the major reconstruction of the campus declared in 2017.  The plan included the construction of one building on the main campus on the east of Highway 520, six buildings in the west, five buildings on the Safeco Redmond campus, the purchasing of a building from Eddie Bauer, and another building from state farm (Dudley, 2006).  These constructions formed the greatest transformations before the announcement of the 2017 renovation.

The place of the Microsoft Redmond campus in the growth of the Redmond city and the development of its international relations cannot be ignored. The campus has created a place in which the community can secure their future through the provision of employment opportunities. The company has been recognized for the environmental contributions that it makes towards the Redmond community, as well as the diversity it ensures Washington (Dudley, 2006). The campus has been instrumental in the establishment of the regional transportation lines that make it easy for the community to access materials and products, as well as participating in the education of the society by setting up schools that teach tech (Dudley, 2006). These ideas that support the development of the community have created the basis for peaceful a fruitful co-existence of the company in Washington.

The establishment of Redmond Microsoft campus in the 80s followed the basic construction plan that was trending back then. However, the trend of architecture towards the construction of tech offices has evolved over time, setting new designs into motion. For example, the company had a design that formed a ring of balconies whose working spaces were uniformly built over the spaces (Day, 2015).  With time, the mixture of office space designs became the dominant style, allowing for employees to work in spaces that suit their particular activities ( (Levy, 2017). Also, the new plan allows for the employees to participate in the designing of their workplace, forming a better environment for the comfort of the employees, and contributing to better rates of output (Day, 2015). In the end, the recognition of these needs has triggered the transformations of the Redmond campus, with the biggest reconstruction project announced in 2017.

In 2017, the company released news about a reconstruction of the site. The project seeks to increase the working space for 8, 000 more employers to be taken in into the company.This project has been defined as a mega redevelopment, seeing that the company plans to pull down the original buildings that have been established at the Redmond Campus, and make way for 18 new buildings  (Levy, 2017). While the Redmond campus has been through different series of redevelopment, this one is the most crucial of them all so far.

The project will see the rise of eighteen new buildings, 6.7 million square feet of workspace to be redone, and 150 million dollars in the renewing of infrastructure, green spaces, public and sports spaces as well as renovation of transportation infrastructure (Schroeder, 2017). This renovation is set to accommodate 47, 000 more people in employment, with the stretch as big as 8,000 people. On the outside, the campus will take the shape of open plazas over a 2 acre stretch of land, one that can accommodate as many as 12,000 people, among treehouses that allow the employees to connect with nature (Schroeder, 2017).  The company has hired one of the most respected architecture firm, Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill who designed the world’s tallest building in Dubai (Yu & Bass, 2015). This makeover will see the integration of the latest structural ideas both for the inside and the outside environment of the campus.

A change in structural strategy characterizes the planned redevelopment project of 2017. The earlier campus reconstructions have been horizontal constructions, a scheme that was adopted in 2015 after winning a zoning change from the city of Redmond which allows it to build buildings up to 10 stories, on the area lying to the east side of the Redmond Washington campus (Day, 2015). The plan is meant to have fewer employees working across the buildings scattered all over the Redmond campus, and to bring them into the story offices, where more people can work under the same roof.  This comes after the expansions that mostly had the company put up buildings on more acres of land.

The move has been seen to be in sync with the changes in preferences of the company employees, which have evolved over time. The putting up of more vertical than horizontal spaces allows the company to have the feel of an urban area, with open floor plans, spaces that allow meetings and places for people to eat together (Day, 2015). The plan would increase the feeling of community within the campus, as more employees work in the same building, emphasizing on the commonness of purpose and futuristic goals for the separate projects done by the company. (Day, 2015).  This project integrates the need for social amenities and the evolving design of workplace architecture to meet the demand of the employees as well as the consumers of Microsoft products.

The multi-billion project includes the demolition of the older buildings erected in 1980, to raise a more modern campus with an open plan, sports fields, with a sky bridge over state Route 520 (Levy, 2017).  This redesigning, which is to be done in phases will take advantage of the infrastructural developments in Seattle, signing a commitment to work in Washington for longer. Architectural designing will be needed to cater for the pedestrians, to ensure that the new structuring doesn’t get into the way of open spaces and walking areas, besides the soccer and cricket fields, the outdoor plazas for meetings and even musical performances (Levy, 2017). With the integration of the light rail, Microsoft will make it easier for the employees to commute from work and to work as well as ship equipment for the company (Levy, 2017). Microsoft is set to appreciate the different cultures alive in the company community, by catering for the moods of the employees, through setting up entertainment hubs in the campus as well as working for a conducive environment for them to be productive (Romano, 2007). This is the transformation of both the structural outlook as well as the community relationship of the Microsoft Redmond Campus community.

Since 1986, the campus has been a hub of development. The expansions have created more space for employees, therefore increasing the number of people that the company can hold. Also, the development of innovative ideas that challenge the existing ideas of technology has allowed for the world to tap into better lives through the use of technology.  The campus has existed as a positive contribution to its surrounding areas, through the development of infrastructural projects and a contribution to the economy. Its expansion is an increase of the research hours that will be put into technology, planning and even execution of new ideas that seek to redefine the future.

The multi-billion mega reconstruction seeks to account more of the future needs of the workplace, catching up with the trends of the workplace designs that over time have been discovered to favor the tech industry. With this reconstruction also, the campus allows for more employment opportunities, and more broad ways to interact with the community. The span that the construction takes will be another moment of growth not just for the campus, but for the corporation at large. Microsoft has a bright future on this campus and growing internationally, I’m looking forward to seeing where this all goes!

 

~Michael Goetzman

 

 

 

 

References

Day, M. (2015, December 28). Microsoft’s next Redmond expansion expected to go vertical. Retrieved from https://www.seattletimes.com/business/microsoft/microsofts-next-redmond-expansion-expected-to-go-vertical/

Dudley, B. (2006, February 9). Business & Technology | Microsoft speeding up plans for huge campus redevelopment | Seattle Times Newspaper. Retrieved from http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20060209&slug=webmmsftbuild09

Levy, N. (2017, November 28). Microsoft plans to knock down and rebuild original Redmond campus, creating room for 8K more workers in the historic redevelopment project. Retrieved from https://www.geekwire.com/2017/microsoft-plans-knock-rebuild-original-redmond-campus-creating-room-8k-workers-historic-redevelopment-project/

Romano, B. (2007, November 11). Microsoft campus expands, transforms, inside and out. Retrieved from https://www.seattletimes.com/business/microsoft/microsoft-campus-expands-transforms-inside-and-out/

Schroeder, S. (2017, November 29). Microsoft plans a major overhaul of its Redmond campus. Retrieved from https://mashable.com/2017/11/29/microsoft-hq-overhaul/#F3nMDuIaziqS

Yarow, J. (2013, August 1). A Tour Of Microsoft’s Truly Gigantic, Sprawling Headquarters. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/a-tour-of-microsofts-truly-gigantic-sprawling-headquarters-2013-7?IR=T

Yarow, J. (2013, July 18). Take A Sneak Peek At Microsoft’s Vision Of The House Of The Future. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/inside-microsofts-house-of-the-future-2013-7?IR=T

Yu, H., & Bass, D. (2015, September 4). Microsoft considers a multibillion-dollar overhaul to Redmond campus. Retrieved from https://www.seattletimes.com/business/microsoft/microsoft-is-said-to-weigh-multibillion-campus-revamp/