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Tour Microsoft’s New Treehouse Meeting Spaces

If you prefer to hear the call of birds to the buzz of the fax machine, Microsoft’s new office space was made with you in mind. Set in the trees—like, literally, within their branches—are Microsoft’s treehouses, offices made from timber, cedar, and cables.

The climb to the top—of the treehouses, that is—is a hike up a switchback ramp that leads to wooden gates that open to a wooden deck suspended in the air. An awning covers the opening to the treehouses, which have all the modern amenities but none of the traditional—and let’s just say it, uninspiring—designs of a regular ol’ office.

“Aloft, the usual corporate sounds of clicking doors, conference calls, and heels on concrete melt away,” Microsoft describes in its online blog. “A fall wind sweeps through emerald branches. Every once in a while, a pinecone drops to the deck with a soft thud. A sudden ruckus breaks the gentle morning hush: a squirrel scrambling for breakfast charges across the arms of nearby hemlock and western red cedar.”

Microsoft’s two new treehouses were designed by builder Pete Nelson of Nelson Treehouse and Supply, who took time to “commune” with the trees beforehand. Nelson also built one elevated “roost” called the Crow’s Nest for the company. That roost, Microsoft says, will be completed and ready for employees’ use later this year.  

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“The treehouses are part of a larger new system of technology-enabled outdoor districts connected to buildings around campus and empowering employees to work in new ways,” according to Microsoft, which adds that the spaces can help its employees experience more creativity and focus and even more happiness at work.

The first treehouse sits 12 feet above the ground, and has “charred-wood walls and a soaring ceiling with a round skylight that lets in just a bubble of blue,” according to Microsoft’s blog. “A hand-carved arched double door glides open at the swipe of a badge. … Inside the small room nests a simple farmhouse table with rust-red seats.” Details about the second treehouse were not available at the time of publication.

According to Microsoft, the company commissioned the treehouses and roost after surveying employees to see what they wanted most, and that was working outside.

The treehouses are located on Microsoft’s 500-acre campus in the Pacific Northwest. The nature-driven campus is part of what draws in applications, Microsoft says. And with this description of the treehouses and surrounding space, it’s easy to see why.

MS treehouses 2017 PC Microsoft 5

“The evolution of outdoor meeting space emphasizes this long-ago envisioned connection to the environment while increasing opportunities for workers to collaborate—all while maintaining the reliable connectivity of a traditional office,” Microsoft says. “A broad outdoor Wi-Fi network allows employees to range; every bench is weatherproof and contains a hatch that reveals electricity sources. The indoor cafeteria is extended outside, with a barbecue restaurant built into a shipping container. … The space has rust-proof rocking chairs; an outdoor gas fireplace that brings the warmth of a ski lodge and attracts an after-work crowd; and a weatherproof awning that … stencils the Microsoft logo onto the lawn.”

According to Microsoft, the meeting spaces inside the treehouses are accessed by reservation only, while the Crow’s nest is a first-come, first-served situation.

 

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