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Microsoft’s Building B44 renovation sets the new standard for the company’s Work Place Advantage [WPA] initiative to transform existing office buildings into innovative workspaces. At 143,000 square feet, it is Puget Sound’s largest WPA project to date. The building’s interior was completely demolished, stripping the structure to its bones; then fully re-imagined and rebuilt to a new benchmark for quality and “wow” factors. The goal: to reinvent the use of space in Building 44 to evolve Microsoft’s collaborative workspace style, taking it to new levels of high design in an efficient, functional environment.

A complete three-story interior demolition made room for 52 “neighborhoods.” Each neighborhood has its own unique geometry including open work areas, open meeting spaces, focus rooms and dedicated team rooms. To provide ultimate flexibility, several “buddy” neighborhoods were created paired together and connected with garage doors. Two L-shaped, three-story buildings are tied together with an enclosed atrium sitting atop a single-story underground parking podium. A 35-foot living wall with over 36 plant species coupled with a three-story spiral helix staircase makes a dramatic welcoming lobby, and signals entrance to an imaginative custom workspace. Interactive artwork throughout creates a unique environment of engagement, and a creative home for Microsoft’s Cloud & Enterprise team.

Some of the factors that make this space extraordinary:
Multiple architectural elements create design impact, including the largest living wall on campus and one-of-a-kind perforated steel helix staircase. Reclaimed bleacher benches are used as bar tops along exterior windows. Ceilings feature hanging ATC “Clouds” to mitigate noise and sound generated by the occupants. Polished concrete corridors with textured apple-ply wall panels meander throughout the building. These elements, among others, provide spontaneous points of interest throughout the space. The Design-Build/Design-Assist collaboration on the helix stairway created a design and structural marvel that’s a story all its own.

Community impact on 800+ members of the Cloud & Enterprise team. With no offices, natural light travels to the building’s central core and throughout neighborhoods, providing an inherent openness. There are innumerable ways to work together and often collaborative work/play areas commingle. Conferencing areas flex to accommodate various- size groups. Miles of connectivity keep employees in touch with each other and the world.

Creativity, imagination and flexibility are built into the environment. Unusual finishes, interactive art, unexpected materials, stairwell paintings, and miles of writable wall surface called “Wall Talker” facilitate on-the-spot ideas/inspiration. Spaces have opportunities to expand, contract and customize the environment as need arises, facilitated by glass garage doors between neighborhoods.

Design: ZGF Architects
Contractor: GLY Construction
Photography: Benjamin Benschneider Photography, Charlie Shuck (courtesy of Microsoft)

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