An environmentally sustainable addition to the 40-acre waterfront campus of Expedia Group, The Beach by Surfacedesign transforms the bayside into a public place for gathering and safe bike transit

Surfacedesign’s design for The Beach at Expedia Group (with campus buildings designed by ZGF and Aidlin Darling Design) sculpts the topography of the waterfront site into a public waterfront for bikers and pedestrians along Elliott Bay in Seattle.

For its generous and sustainable design, The Beach at Expedia Group has recently been awarded a 2022 International Architecture Award by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.

Expedia HQ is located a mile north of downtown Seattle on a 40-acre waterfront site. 

The campus has unparalleled sweeping views of Puget Sound, Mount Rainier, and Downtown Seattle. 

Until 1969 the site existed as water with two piers extending toward the Sound, but over the course of seven years from 1962 to 1969, the site was infilled with dirt and construction debris, eventually forming the land that is now the 40-acre site of Expedia HQ. 

The design team was tasked to envision a campus that would not only facilitate its anticipated Northwestern workforce but also provide an innovative approach to the workplace. 

At the forefront of Expedia’s mission was to create a campus that embraces the sustainable and environment-friendly goals of the company.

Surface design unpacked and expanded on Expedia’s eco-driven goals by creating an experience-based campus with the notion of biophilic design driving the landscape improvements. 

One of the key components in creating the campus was the public interface. 

The Elliott Bay Trail skirts the waterfront edge of the campus and connects downtown Seattle to the Cruise Ship Terminal at Smith Cove. 

Prior to its improvement, the site’s shared bicycle and a pedestrian path had a blind turn that was often submerged during storm events, making cycling, or walking along the path dangerous. 

This new portion of the Elliott Bay Trail separates and expands both a bike and pedestrian path. 

The paths through the project are raised to account for rising seas and flood events. 

The upgraded Elliott Bay Trail and provision of public space referred to by the design team as ‘The Beach’ is a celebration of the Seattle coast’s rugged informality at the edge of Elliott Bay on Puget Sound, just north of downtown Seattle.

More than a quarter mile of waterfront inspired by the native coastal landscape, ‘The Beach’ connects Elliott Bay Trail and carves out spaces for people to gather by the bay. 

The braided paths curve gently through the center of the dunes, immersing visitors, and bicycle commuters in the amplified coastal landscape. 

Bioretention areas are seamlessly integrated into the topography and planting approach, treating runoff from the paths in compliance with the project’s Salmon-Safe certification, and creating habitat opportunities. 

At the park’s southern boundary, the landscape swells to create a terraced overlook that celebrates the site’s vantage point, providing outstanding views of Mount Rainier, Puget Sound, and the Seattle skyline.

Material reclamation and adaptive reuse were core principles of the design process for both ‘The Beach’ and the adjacent 40-acre Expedia Global Headquarters campus. 

The existing site (previously the home of Amgen’s Seattle Campus, and before that a series of pier shed buildings) had a series of formal landscape spaces that featured stone paving and monolith features. 

The stone onsite was stockpiled and reimagined for the new campus, including informal stone groupings nestled into dune planting. 

Inspired by the driftwood that washes onto the shores of Washington beaches, knotty spruce ‘boom sticks’ from a decommissioned log mill in Port Angeles were brought to the site and nestled into the planting and gravel dunes. 

The reclaimed stone boulders and driftwood break up the planting while also functioning as informal seating and play areas. 

A subtle gradient of beach pebbles and river rocks meander around the planted dunes, recalling Ruby Beach in Washington’s Olympic National Park and the estuaries of the state’s far western reaches. ‘The Beach’ invites users to pause at the edge of Elliott Bay.

Celebrating the land-water threshold, reclaimed materials and vibrant native plantings highlight the sculpted topography of the dunes. 

The gravel gradient creates a subtle patterning that shimmers in the light as the waves of the Sound ripple in the distance. 

Sinuous bike and pedestrian paths are coupled with the open gravel swaths within the beach where visitors can discover their own routes. 

Curved stepped terraces allow for groups or individuals to gather at multiple elevations and take in views of the larger regional landscape. 

In its essence, “The Beach” at Expedia Group is a place to celebrate and reinforce a sense of place while defining a new landscape approach centered on stewardship.

Project: The Beach at Expedia Group
Architects: Surfacedesign Inc.
Lead Architects: James Lord, Roderick Wyllie, and Michal Kapitulnik
Design Team: Heath House, Matt Bombard, Tyler Mohr, and Blythe Price
Collaborating Architects: ZGF (Main Campus Building), and Aidlin Darling Design (Accessory Building)
General Contractor: GLY Construction Inc.
Client: Expedia Group
Photographers: Marion Brenner