Seattle, Washington, USA
Located on Expedia Group’s new 40-acre corporate campus/retreat bordering Seattle’s coastline, the Prow by Aidlin Darling Design is a biophilic retreat for the company’s staff and executives.
The Prow has recently been awarded a 2023 American Architecture Award and a 2023 International Architecture Award by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.
The focus was to design a retreat that is integrated with the surrounding environment and away from the day-to-day offices, allowing employees to clear their minds and thus spurring innovation.
The resulting concept was driven by two primary influences: form and function.
When the architect was introduced to the project, a highly sophisticated master plan had been created by the landscape architect team.
The corresponding site plan articulated a series of cascading plateaus descending from the existing office buildings down to Elliott Bay—home to the Port of Seattle, one of the busiest ports in the U.S.
A collection of 800-foot-long canted stone riprap walls define the southwestern edges of these plateaus.
The Prow is discretely integrated into the landscape as an extension of these gestural landscape walls.
The retreat is hidden in plain sight with a roof that mirrors the planted ground plane but is simply lifted at one end.
When seen from the headquarters, it appears as a geometrically-planted landform akin to one of the landscape’s many natural features—allowing one’s gaze to rest on Mount Rainier in the distance, the beautiful Elliott Bay beyond it, and the campus’s adjacent green lawns in the foreground.
When seen from Centennial Park, the public coastal park surrounding the site, it resembles a floating wing supported by a pair of stone walls that slowly emerge from the site.
The Prow’s vectoral shape is a direct reference to the concept of motion as the campus is the epicenter for a plethora of man-made modes of transportation.
The site is surrounded by boats of all kinds: tankers, cruise ships, and sailboats all reside directly next to the headquarters.
A vehicular highway defines the eastern edge of the site, while a path filled with every possible scooter, bike, and Segway borders the western edge.
High above the campus are the regular flight paths of planes departing from and arriving at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
The Prow’s resulting wing form symbolizes Expedia Group’s mission to aid people in the art of travel—much of which starts with flying.
The roof plane thus becomes an abstract icon of global travel and adventure.
Approaching the Prow from within the campus, one is met by two black portals elegantly positioned within a single-story stone wall—representing the threshold between the every day and the aspirational.
The larger of the two is flanked by sidelights that quietly reveal a wooden interior and Elliott Bay in the distance. Once inside, the occupant is surrounded by a singular room crafted from natural materials.
The northern and eastern walls are solid, while the southern and western walls are glazed—dramatically framing a panoramic yet intimate view of Mount Rainier and Elliott Bay.
The south-facing glazing retracts and opens to a floating deck covered by a 50-foot cantilevered, rising roof plane.
The large room is broken down into three separate seating groups.
The first convenes around a heroic Nakashima table with seating for twenty people that facilitates meetings with satellite offices around the world.
Centered on the expansive view, the second group is a casual seating area for individual and collective brainstorming.
The third cluster is defined by an intimate gathering of seating around a fireplace—with the fire being the ultimate vehicle for transcendent thought.
The palette is defined by indigenous Pacific Northwest materials, creating a space that authentically honors the region while providing a biophilic experience visually, tactically, and acoustically.
The walls are crafted from the same stone as the riprap found along the Elliott Bay shoreline.
The floors and ceilings are crafted from local Douglas Fir trees, providing the occupant with an environment that exudes warmth.
Rough-sawn cedar siding and the steel structure are either stained or painted black to highlight the warmth of the Douglas Fir and stone riprap.
The overarching goal was to create a soulful sanctuary that both calms the mind and body and acts as a catalyst for inspirational thought.
Project: The Prow
Architects: Aidlin Darling Design
General Contractor: GLY Construction
Interiors: Susan Marinello Interiors
Client: Expedia Group
Photographers: Adam Rouse