Microsoft has unveiled plans for a complete rebuild of its headquarters in Redmond, Washington, in the eastern suburbs of Seattle. Corporations have long wanted to make their headquarters feel like universities — hence their love of the word campus — but this one is much closer to delivering on that image. complete with retail, generous plazas and open space, and — very important — the removal of through car traffic.
It’s most important feature is its relationship to the new light rail station that will open on the edge of the campus in 2023. A central axis of the campus points right to the station, minimizing walk distances to all campus destinations. The station is just off the image to the upper right. It’s not the town of circa 1900 town where density crowded around the station, but then rail stations in 1900 weren’t in ravines next to freeways. This campus represents the best of what you can do given the suburban nature of the urban fabric, land ownership, and transportation infrastructure. It’s no substitute for locating in the old fabric of a dense city — as Amazon and Twitter did and Google is planning to do — but it’s a great start toward building a more human urban environment in a difficult context.
None of the materials I’ve seen mentions the parking ratios, however. How many spaces per employee? Too much parking would destroy the whole point.