Expedia HQ is located a mile north of downtown Seattle on a 40-acre waterfront site. The campus has unparalleled sweeping views of the Puget Sound, Mount Rainier, and Downtown Seattle. The Expedia HQ design team was tasked to envision a campus that could not only could facilitate its anticipated Northwestern workforce, but also provide an innovative approach to the workplace focused on sustainability. Surfacedesign expanded on these goals by creating an experience-based campus with biophilia driving many of the design moves, and Paladino and Co. consulted on the campus’s holistic sustainability journey. Soil remediation and stormwater management were key drivers in the site design, resulting in a systems-based approach that centered on long-term resilience while also celebrating the plants and regional landscape of the Pacific Northwest.
The history of the Expedia HQ site is complex. From 1962-69 the site was infilled with dirt and construction debris to form a new landmass on the Puget Sound. Prior to development by Expedia, much of the existing site was paved and had been used for industrial purposes for decades. The little planting that was on-site was mostly non-native and provided little habitat value. In contrast, planting at the new Expedia campus is entirely comprised of native and climate-appropriate species. Inspired by the broader regional landscape, the team focused on a variety of Pacific Northwest plant ecotones as the point of inspiration for the site design, using the opportunity to bring in rich soil that mimics native soil horizons and fertilized with compost tea developed for the distinct plant communities brought to the site. Native and adaptive plants were used to reintroduce pacific northwest plant ecotones to the site. Employees are encouraged to explore the many outdoor meeting and collaboration spaces, as well as the waterfront trail that connects to downtown Seattle.
One of the key components in creating the campus was the public interface. The Elliott Bay Trail skirts the waterfront edge of the campus and connects downtown Seattle to the Cruise Ship Terminal at Smith Cove. Prior to its improvement, a shared bike and pedestrian trail pushed the circulation out to the outermost edge of the property creating a blind corner that was less-than-desirable (and often dangerous) for its users. The upgraded Elliott Bay Trail and provision of public space referred to by the design team as “The Point”, softened the sharp corner into a gracious curve as well as created separate bicycle and pedestrian paths to improve its safety. The Elliott Bay Trail improvements continue along the Western Smith Cove Edge in the form of a meandering linear park planted with a variety of native and Salmon Safe plantings.
Inside the campus boundaries, employees have free reign to utilize a variety of landscape spaces including a park amphitheater large enough to fit all of the company’s employees, contemplative gardens, a 12,000-square-foot cascading water feature, cherry tree orchard, multiple path circuits for walking meetings, and many other landscape spaces that promote the notion of biophilic design as a means to encourage a healthy and enjoyable workplace. The Expedia HQ campus invites users—employees and the broader Seattle community— to pause at the edge of Elliott Bay. Celebrating the land-water threshold, reclaimed materials and vibrant native plantings highlight the sculpted topography of the site. Sinuous bike and pedestrian paths are coupled with the open areas where visitors can discover their own routes. Curved stepped terraces allow for groups or individuals to gather at multiple elevations and take in views of the larger regional landscape. The Expedia HQ campus is a place to celebrate and reinforce sense of place while defining a new landscape approach centered on stewardship.