Amazon has become a major economic and cultural force in Seattle over the past few years. The company owns more than 10 million square feet of office space according to GeekWire, and is constantly expanding.
Their newest architectural project consists of three giant glass spheres that will be filled with so many plants it will require a full-time horticulturalist to maintain. According to GeekWire, “The largest of the three spheres will sit 95 feet tall and 130 feet in diameter.”
What an interesting addition to the city, one might think. First an expanding waterfront including a ferris wheel, revitalized South Lake Union scenario and now huge ecodomes.
Yet these domes will not be open to the public and are designed more to inspire innovative tech workers than to add aesthetic for Seattleites.
Amazon’s exponential growth has had an adverse effect on everything from housing price increases to homelessness within the city. The company continues to gentrify Seattle, jamming new residents into an already overcrowded city without giving much back.
They have actually lied about the few small contributions they claim to have made.
There isn’t anything morally wrong with building a modern and interesting environment in which to grow their business, but the building of the new ecodomes represents just one of many missed opportunities to connect with the community whose city they have taken over.
Why not create partnerships with local eco-friendly projects like the Beacon Hill Food Forest? The ecodomes could be used to raise seedlings that could then be planted in the community garden designed in the theme of permaculture. They could have a tourist feature that would bring revenue to the city. A partnership with local schools could teach children about ecosystems as well as economics. Choosing native plants for their synthetic ecosystem could raise awareness about local wildlife.
Amazon doesn’t need to invest in Seattle communities to increase their profit margins. The company is successful regardless of its effective colonization of the city. Cheerful tech workers can continue to step over the bodies of the homeless population as they stroll to work from their newly constructed condos. They can live in their bubble of perfection as skyrocketing rent prices slowly push out more and more of the population.
Although the well-being of Seattle’s longest residents doesn’t affect Amazon’s money making efforts, I can’t help but think that it would be beneficial to all involved if they cared even a fraction more about the communities they are disrupting.
Amazon is the Ellis Island of Seattle, bringing vast numbers of fresh transplants into a new city. Why not have easy volunteering opportunities to help the homeless or build partnerships with local restaurants in places most vulnerable to the negative impacts of construction?
Although enjoying the trendiest restaurants and living in the trendiest places may be plenty for these people, Amazon could easily and with no cost to them, steer the masses of wealthy “Amazonites” to the treasures that Seattle had before they came here.
Fostering a true sense of connection to all aspects of the community would help transplants find a true bond with their new environment. It would also help Amazon lose their reputation as an evil gentrification machine.
Although it won’t bring down housing prices or help the homeless, incorporating a community aspect into Amazon’s new ecodome could start the process of healing their relationship with the city it has abused.