Posts tagged with "Microsoft":

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Microsoft’s Redmond campus opens to the public…in Minecraft

The massive expansion of Microsoft’s Redmond campus—just east of Seattle in Washington—isn’t expected to wrap up until 2022, but curious gamers can get a sneak peek of the renovation four years early. LMNNBBJWRNS Studio, and ZGF Architects were originally tapped to upgrade 72 acres of the existing 500-acre campus and add another 1.8-million-square-feet of occupiable office space, all of which has now been recreated in Minecraft courtesy of Microsoft. The map can only be imported by users who have the Education Edition of the game (a modified multi-platform version meant for teachers) and can be downloaded straight from Microsoft Education. Minecraft might be known as the best-selling PC game of all time, but it’s also been held up as a teaching tool for getting children interested in architecture and planning. Players can use blocks to build whatever they’d like at any scale and then walk through their space, making it a simple and easy way to get up and close with a project like the Redmond campus. Over the years fans have used Minecraft to build out 500-square-miles of Game of Thrones’ Westeros, recreate the entirety of Denmark at full scale, and replicate a wide suite of architectural gems. The $250 million campus overhaul will add 18 new buildings, a soccer field, and a circular cricket pitch, which Microsoft claims is aimed at its increasingly diverse workforce; all are accessible in the current version of the Minecraft map. According to CNBC, Microsoft tapped Blockworks, an international collective of architects and artists who use Minecraft blocks as their medium, to recreate the campus from drawings provided by Gensler. The end result is an interactive map of the project that students and Microsoft employees alike can use to familiarize themselves with the new campus’s layout from a human perspective. The recreation is far from finished, and Andrew Yang, a project manager at Gensler, has promised a future update that will add more realistic interiors and more people to the campus. Minecraft: Education Edition is included in the Education edition of Office 365, but since the campus was created in a standard Minecraft map, it may eventually become accessible in the normal version of the game sometime in the future.
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Artist Mel Chin addresses climate change with virtual reality underwater world in Times Square

This summer, visitors to Times Square can take in an underwater virtual reality experience, courtesy of the North Carolina-based conceptual artist Mel Chin and technology giant Microsoft. The site-specific mixed-reality public art installation titled Unmoored will come to life from July 11 through September 5. Chin tackles the topic of climate change, imagining a future where melting ice caps cause the city to go underwater. As visitors look through VR goggles, they can see a 'nautical traffic jam' of 3-D modeled ships, each with their own unique identification number and name. Ships move slowly in the city, bumping into each other and buildings, creating waves rendered by realistic animation and sound effects. Visitors can also view Wake, another public artwork by Chin, which “evokes the hull of a shipwreck crossed with the skeletal remains of marine mammals,” beside a sculpture of the 19th century opera singer Jenny Lind. Chin chose New York City as the site for the word because it represents the center of trade, entertainment, and capitalism for the country. Its history is loaded with topics that resonate today, like guns and slavery. The USS Nightingale, which was historically involved with the shipping of slaves, is digitally recreated in the Unmoored experience. The installations are part of an exhibition titled Mel Chin: All Over the Place, presented with the Queens Museum of Art and NYC-based, nonprofit arts organization No Longer Empty in various sites around New York. Times Square visitors can view the show through mobile devices via Unmoored’s mobile app, which is now available for download and use. Check this link for more details.
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Microsoft announces that LMN, ZGF, and others will design its corporate campus in Washington State

Computer software giant Microsoft is moving along in its efforts to replace and expand its longtime corporate headquarters campus in Redmond, Washington, east of Seattle.  According to Geekwire, Microsoft recently announced the architecture and contracting teams for the transformational project, which aims to replace nine existing two-story office clusters with 18 four- and five-story office blocks. On the design side, LMNNBBJWRNS Studio, and ZGF Architects are on board for the 3 million-square-foot project; Berger Partnership will act as lead landscape architect with OLIN partnering on the project as well. Microsoft has also selected SkanskaBalfour BeattyGLY, and Sellen as general contractors for the re-do, which will affect roughly 72 acres on Microsoft’s 500-acre campus. The project will demolish all of the of the site’s original 'X-Wing'-style, 1980s-era office buildings, replacing those facilities and then adding a net 1.8 million-square-feet of space on top of what is existing. The new offices will be clustered into “distinct villages,” according to a Microsoft statement, with the core section aiming to be “more open and less formal” than the current campus. A rendering unveiled by Microsoft depicts glass-wrapped office buildings laid out along a skewed grid surrounding a central green containing playing fields and a bosque.  The project comes as Redmond begins to densify ahead of forthcoming transit investments that will link the city with Seattle in coming years. The first phase of the city’s Overlake Village—a 170-acre mixed-use district that will eventually house 40,000 residents—is underway and will bring 1.2 million square feet of offices, 1,400 housing units, 25,000 square feet of retail uses, a hotel, and a conference center to the town. Microsoft aims to begin work on its $250 million campus expansion later this year with an eye toward completing the project by 2022. 
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Microsoft reveals renderings for its new Silicon Valley campus upgrade

Microsoft has gone big and broken ground on its new Silicon Valley headquarters, with a sustainability-minded plan to modernize its Mountain View, California outpost. The 32-acre campus might seem small when compared to the company’s sprawling, 500-acre flagship location in Redmond, Washington, but Microsoft’s pursuit of a net zero non-potable water certification under the Living Building Challenge will make them the first tech company to totally reuse non-potable water. The redevelopment plans come as WRNS Studio replaced SOM early last year as Microsoft’s designers of choice. The redevelopment is leaning hard on a green modernization, with Microsoft pursuing LEED Platinum certification for all of its new buildings, committing to the WELL Building standards for the interiors, and integrating cross-laminated timber (CLT) throughout all of the new buildings to cut material usage. In trying to meet their water-use reduction goals, and acknowledging California’s limited groundwater availability, the campus will feature rainwater catchments and an on-site wastewater treatment plant so that drinkable water can be recycled for other uses. Because the campus is next to Stevens Creek, the tech giant is also introducing a 4-acre, occupiable green roof solely planted with native species. Rooftop solar panels will also help cut the campus’s energy usage, while the buildings will let natural light in through their uniformly large windows. Not to be outdone by the main, Seattle-adjacent campus, the project will also include an underground parking garage topped by a soccer field and a new athletics facility, while returning the former parking lots to nature. Besides modernizing the office space of their 2,000 San Francisco Bay Area-employees, the new campus will feature a renovated dining hall, new theater, conference center, and a “Microsoft Technology Center.” Microsoft has provided a full fly-through video of their plans below. The new Mountain View campus plan increases the existing 515,000-square-foot campus to 643,000 square feet, and comes amidst the recent opening of Apple’s new space-aged campus nearby. Similarly, Microsoft's renovation of its main headquarters in Redmond, announced at the same time as its Silicon Valley campus, feels like a direct response to Amazon’s city-hopping HQ2 plans. Microsoft's Silicon Valley campus is on track to re-open sometime in 2019.
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Tech behemoth Microsoft selected young San Francisco firm Blitz to design its flagship office

“You could say we were the underdogs,” Blitz principal and CEO Melissa Hanley said about being selected to design Microsoft’s flagship office in one of San Francisco’s most notable buildings, 555 California Street. “Microsoft challenged a lot of things with this project, from hiring a tiny little baby firm like us to selecting a transparent site in San Francisco.”

Aside from facing the obstacles of being a small architecture firm tapped to create an office for one of the largest technology companies in the world, Blitz had to work within the restraints of 555 California Street (formerly the Bank of America Center). Art Gensler was brought on to design the tower’s indoor space when the building opened in 1969, and he’s credited by some as the inventor of commercial interior architecture. “There was a great deal of responsibility to not mess it up,” Hanley said.

Hanley and her team treated working within the iconic building’s structure and Microsoft’s “global design guidelines” (hundreds of parameters for everything from the conference rooms to staff algorithms) as a huge, complex puzzle. To take the stakes one notch higher, the office was downsizing from a 90,000-square-foot space to a 43,500-square-foot space, and employees were understandably concerned.

In an attempt to solve all of these challenges with one elegant solution, “We really focused on the idea of neighborhood design,” Hanley said. “We broke up a sea of desks into groups of 18 to 30 users, and every ‘neighborhood’ has familiar touch points such as lockers for flex employees, water, trash, etc.” Each neighborhood is a different bright color, which offers easy wayfinding and furthers employees’ sense of home. The layout offers equal access to front-row views of the cityscape from the 265 windows on the site.

The office also showcases Microsoft’s latest technology to customers. Upon entering the lobby, visitors walk up a 30-foot-tall staircase to a landing featuring an interactive, virtual moss wall. “It is technical, fun, and childlike,” Hanley said. “It’s a place where people can pause and think about their journey into the space.” Blitz echoed the moss wall with real living walls throughout the space, a slightly surreal move that blurs the borders between reality and technology. The firm extended the outdoor, organic aesthetic with textural flooring and canopies wrapped in a bleached-cork covering that resembles birch.

Although the project was a game changer for Blitz, which now has three ongoing projects with Microsoft in addition to work for Comcast and Yahoo, it was also pivotal for Microsoft. “Before this office, Microsoft was located in the outskirts of the city; it was almost like a castle in the sky,” Hanley said. “Now it is downtown, it is transparent, it engages with the city, and all the stuff that goes on outside its windows influences it day-to-day.”

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Microsoft HoloLens partners with the first holographic real estate leasing center

The new holographic headset by Microsoft, HoloLens, has just started shipping to U.S. and Canadian developers last week for $3,000 (the consumer version release date is still unannounced). Now we hear the tech company giant is partnering with global real estate developer Skanska to create the first leasing center in the world using holographic technology. No word yet on the leasing center’s location, but the space is expected to open this June. The center is slated to help sell Skanska’s proposed and unbuilt project, 2+U, a downtown Seattle high rise planned between First and Second Avenues and Seneca and University Streets, with expected completion early 2019. Seattle-based digital production agency Studio 216, which specializes in real estate virtual and mixed-reality visualizations, is partnering with Microsoft and Skanska on the 2+U project. Unlike other virtual reality headsets such as Oculus Rift (which Facebook's acquired for $2 billion), HoloLens is untethered, and incorporates a more “mixed reality” or an “artificial reality” setup: users can still be present and aware of the space they are in and other people around them. Holograms are “projected” onto real objects in space. “Developing for Hololens is similar to developing for VR headsets, but you have to ask yourself different questions,” said Kyle Riesenbeck, Technical Lead for the 2+U Holographic project in a press release. “With VR, you have to create both the environment and the content, but with Hololens, the challenge is determining the best way to have your content interact with your existing world, and enhance your real life experience in a unique and necessary way.” According to Microsoft’s website, the device features sensors, a processing unit, special high-def color lenses, and built-in speakers. Microsoft is also collaborating with Lowe’s, the home improvement company, to help customers visualize new kitchen or living layouts, finishes, and more. Since we are on the topic of holograms, enjoy this YouTube video of the Seattle skyline, featuring a different type of holographic technology.
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WRNS Studio to expand Microsoft headquarters in Mountain View with green roof, creekside habitat

Last week Microsoft submitted plans to the city of Mountain View to expand its Silicon Valley headquarters. As with Apple's upcoming building and Google's proposed campus, this one is also pastoral and eco-minded. A rendering by shows the low-rise office buildings enmeshed in a riparian landscape and topped by an expanse of verdant meadow. According to the Silicon Valley Business Journal, WRNS Studio replaced SOM on the job. This new scheme not only updates the 515,000-square-foot campus, but also adds 128,000 square feet of workspace and 164,000 square feet of green roof. Changing the paradigm for parking, the design will restore more than 6 acres of asphalt surface parking into a “creekside environment.” But don’t expect a decreased demand for parking spaces, there’s talk of a new garage topped by a soccer field. "They’ve talked to us from square one about taking all the parking adjacent to Stevens Creek and turning that to habitat," said Mountain View Community development director Randy Tsuda told SVBJ. The tech behemoth also intends to buy the property, which it now leases. In an email to employees executive vice president Qi Lu wrote, “Today, I am excited to announce our plan to further invest in the success of the Silicon Valley region. Microsoft is acquiring the Mountain View Silicon Valley Campus to build a state-of-the-art facility and create an exceptional place to work... Sustainability, collaboration, and health & wellness are at the center of the design, incorporating features such as team courtyards, easy access to the outdoors, an onsite gym, and LEED Platinum certification.” WRNS’s plan calls for demolishing and rebuilding two existing buildings and infilling much of the campus with courtyards and outdoor spaces, while new programs along Macon Street and La Avenida Streets will directly engage with the community. Construction is expected to start in early 2017.