Local Roots,
Global Mission

“ We have big goals: eradicating polio, cutting in half childhood deaths and the number of hungry people in Africa, and overhauling the U.S. education system. Now we have a location that will help us reach those goals with our partners, while keeping us connected. ”

Martha Choe Former Chief Administrative Office

NBBJ designed a new home for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, consolidating five leased offices into a LEED Platinum campus that enables its workforce to focus on their mission: giving all people a chance to live healthy and productive lives.

The foundation sought to give physical presence to its mission and to create a campus that inspires and creates optimism and hope. Their new home needed to act as a hub for innovation and to facilitate gatherings of experts from many fields, perspectives and countries.

A combination of design research, workshops and prototyping resulted in the creation of a 40/60 closed/open workplace strategy. Design principles focused on designing a healthy and connected workplace for all staff with the goal of increasing collaboration within the Foundation and with external grantee partners.

A Place to do Their Best Work

In order to meet the workplace goals, NBBJ devised a planning concept that capitalizes on the building’s geometry. The square footage of each floor is comparable to a downtown office building, but the narrow, curved office wings enable a very different kind of office environment.

Floors are 65 feet wide as opposed to the typical 120 feet, which places employees no more than 30 feet from daylight, reduces lighting energy costs and enables more face-to-face connections. A split between 60% open office and 40% private office accommodates both collaborative and heads-down work. Each office neighborhood consists of 20 to 25 people with a variety of conference rooms and informal seating areas to create intimate, cohesive team spaces. Shared amenities and touchdown spaces encourage the exchange of ideas, and component-based furniture, column-free space, raised floors and demountable partitions allow for easy changes in the future.

Lighting Design

The global, public mission of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation led to a lighting design that activates the campus as an illuminated beacon in the urban landscape. Because the landscaped courtyard is so central to the campus, literally and figuratively, the lighting also aims to activate this space and make it welcoming for employees to use, even at night.


Lighting is used to reveal the integrated architectural and landscape concept, where curved buildings embrace a central oasis for gathering and repose, even at night.


Careful consideration was made of views to and from surrounding city icons, such as the Space Needle. Utilitarian roof lighting is concealed to emphasize the architecture and interiors.


The façades are not illuminated; rather, the architecture is revealed by the glow of interior lighting. To save energy, a time clock turns off most interior lighting after-hours.


Paths are illuminated by light fixtures integrated into architectural and landscape elements, including benches that appear to float over the illumination cast by concealed, linear LEDs.


Monumental signage elements are illuminated to reveal their curved form and highlight the information engraved on the surface.

Connecting Craft to Mission

The foundation’s campus interiors are designed around the notion of simple craft, giving employees a humble, calm atmosphere in which to work and collaborate. Utilizing the skill of individuals who benefit from the foundation’s work, the design supports sustainable small craft industries in the Pacific Northwest and abroad, connecting the design to the Foundation’s “local roots and global mission” philosophy. It’s a destination where mission and design converge.

Campus Interiors
Campus Interiors
Campus Interiors
Campus Interiors
Campus Interiors
Campus Interiors
Campus Interiors
Campus Interiors

Reduce. Reuse. Redefine.

At 640,000 square feet, replacing a 12-acre asphalt parking lot in downtown Seattle, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation campus is the largest non-profit LEED-NC Platinum project in the world. Its conservation strategies reduce potable water use by 80 percent, and energy consumption by 40 percent — an upfront investment in this 100-year, energy-efficient building that will pay for itself in fewer than 30 years.



Awards and Publications


AIA Seattle, What Makes It Green? Award
American Institute of Steel Construction, IDEAS2 Award, National Certificate of Recognition
ASHRAE Puget Sound, Technology Award
Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), Award of Excellence
Interior Design, Best of Year
NAIOP, Office Development of the Year


Mashable, “Architecture Projects That Revolutionize City Life,” July 3, 2014
Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “Back to the city for healthy office spaces,” September 13, 2013
The New York Times, “In New Office Designs, Room to Roam and Think,” March 18, 2012
Architectural Record, “Building Type Studies: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,” August 2011
The Architect's Newspaper, “Workplace Makoever,” May 2011
Inhabitat, “Gates Foundation is the Largest LEED Platinum Non-Profit Building in the World,” October 2011
Contract, “The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” May 2011
OnOffice, “Solid Foundation,” August 2012
Crosscut.com, “Can everyday function and global ambition coexist?” June 3, 2011