While Amazon and Apple ramp up to open major new campuses, Microsoft has opted instead to massively renovate and expand its 500-acre headquarters in Redmond, Washington to make room for 8,000 more employees.
But to bring in the new, sometimes you have to wipe away a little of the old. That’s why, on Tuesday, Microsoft took the first step towards demolishing some of the oldest office buildings on campus— starting with Building 1, first constructed in 1985, the same year that Microsoft moved in. Bill Gates even had an office in Building 1, for a time.
And it was a Microsoft employee who got to begin the demolition, too. Matthew Whilden — a senior software engineer who’s been with Microsoft for 11 years, according to GeekWire— won an employee charity auction for the right to operate the crane that took the first swing at taking Building 1 down.
Whilden and nine of his teammates, who also contributed to the auction, were then allowed to take to the nearby Building 2 with sledgehammers, tearing down walls as part of the demolition crew. Ultimately, a dozen of these older Microsoft buildings are slated for demolition in this project, including Building 4, where Gates kept a corner office for many years. The project will operate in waves over the next four to six years.
On the subject of Building 4, Gates’ office overlooked a small, man-made pond that was affectionately dubbed Lake Bill by Microsofties. Lake Bill plays an important role in Microsoft lore— once, it was filled with blue ping pong balls to celebrate a new release of Windows; another time, a Microsoft exec took a swim in Lake Bill after Windows 95 hit key sales goals. I’ve been told by Microsoft previously that this renovation project will leave Lake Bill intact.
Ultimately, Microsoft’s renovation initiative will see 18 new buildings constructed, even as it tears down the old ones. It’ll come with new open spaces, sports facilities, and walking trails. In fact, a set of treehouses for employee use have already opened as part of the initiative.
Even the buildings that survive the culling will see tremendous change: Microsoft is renovating its Redmond office spaces to have more common areas for employees to work, even as it continues rolling out a tweak to the open office formula that it calls “Neighborhoods.” Buildings 16 and 17 on the Microsoft campus were the first to get the facelift.
The new campus will have more materialistic benefits too, including expanded on-campus shopping, and, eventually, a rail link from Redmond to the heart of Seattle.