News & Politics

Amazon’s HQ2 Plans Are Being Delayed to Improve the Beauty of the Arlington Skyline

Apparently the county known for boxy office buildings is very against boxy office buildings.

Helix rendering courtesy Amazon/NBBJ.

Amazon has submitted a redesign of its plans for HQ2’s PenPlace to the county of Arlington, addressing some issues brought up by the public and county planners at the most recent public meeting on the development in July. Among the concerns addressed: adding more bike lanes, allowing for better public access, and creating a more pleasing skyline (check out the renderings here).

Regarding the latter complaint, one might assume Arlingtonians took a righteous stand against the Helix building — i.e. the giant silver poop-emoji (or is it a soft-serve cone?) intended to serve as a centerpiece for the campus. One would be wrong. Apparently, the space turd is a-ok with Northern Virginians, but there were fears the surrounding office buildings would contribute to a “boxy and unimpressive skyline,” per the Washington Business Journal. Amazon’s solution: to attempt to make the buildings’ solar panels an interesting part of the horizon.

It’s a bit of a baffling concern, given that Arlington isn’t exactly known for its breathtaking architecture. Perhaps I’ve grown jaded during my time in Washington and the squat, blocky beauty of the Rosslyn skyline is simply lost on me, but there have been exactly zero times I’ve seen an out-of-towner working to capture a photo of the glory of corporate America from the Georgetown waterfront.

Though an unexpected decision, I do commend the NoVa public’s effort to try to add a little beauty to the Pentagon City/Crystal City neighborhood — a part of town former Washingtonian writer Ben Freed described as “a weird, semivacant failed experiment of a neighborhood (with a puppet store),” beloved by no one. And as someone living on a journalist’s salary and not looking forward to the forthcoming tech-bro-induced rent hike, I have no complaints about the redesign pushing final approval from late 2021 to 2022.

Jane Recker
Assistant Editor

Jane is a Chicago transplant who now calls Cleveland Park her home. Before joining Washingtonian, she wrote for Smithsonian Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and opera.