Thrown a curve: Fitting a restaurant into spherical dome was the design challenge for Willmott’s Ghost

The Seattle eatery nests inside the conservatories on Amazon’s massive campus.

March 12, 2019 |

The Seattle restaurant Willmott's Ghost is inside Amazon Spheres, the three-domed complex that is equal parts workspace and botanical garden. Image: Aaron Leitz

Willmott’s Ghost, the recently opened restaurant occupying the ground floor of The Spheres on Amazon’s campus in Seattle, evokes different images simultaneously.

The 1,900-sf, 50-seat restaurant was named after a thistle-like flower christened in honor of the Victorian horticulturalist Ellen Ann Willmott. The restaurant’s cuisine leans Italian, and its color scheme has been said to resemble a Margherita pizza. One review described its modernist design, enclosed as it is inside a spherical envelope, as being like an aquarium. Heliotrope Architects, the restaurant’s architect, has called the project “a ship in a bottle.” 

The restaurant, which opened last October, is one of only three spaces in The Spheres open to the public. Its chef, Renee Erickson, is a regional star whose rapidly expanding food and beverage portfolio includes Deep Dive, a bar in The Sphere’s basement. (Her Sea Creatures restaurant group is the exclusive food operator of both venues.)

Willmott’s Ghost is in line with Erickson’s typically upscale, light-filled style, “with white marble accents yet filtered through a futuristic lens,” according to The Seattle Times’ review of the restaurant last month.

The 1,900-sf restaurant seats around 50 people, and its interior design was dictated by the curved space of the building. Image: Heliotrope Architects

 

Amazon Spheres, which opened 14 months ago, consists of three intersecting glass domes that serve as lounges and workplaces for Amazon’s employees. The domes also house more than 40,000 plants from 50 countries.

The restaurant’s design team—which included the interior design firm Price Erickson and the general contractor Dovetail—drew its inspiration from the NBBJ-designed Spheres’ geometry, as well as the airy environments of art museums and galleries.  

Enclosed within the domes’ envelope, much of the architecture for the restaurant was dictated by curves: Curved leather banquettes and booths hug the glass perimeter. Curved walls clad in painted wood pickets, inspired by the knurling on the sides of coins, define the dining room. Curved bars with Italian marble countertops fill the space.

The restaurant's pastel palette and modernist design are in stark contrast to the forest of trees and plants above it. Image: Kevin Scott 

 

“We made craft the main ingredient of the restaurant buildout,” explains Jeremy Price, a Principal with Price Erickson. That buildout was complicated by the curved nature of the building and a sophisticated mechanical system that runs The Spheres’ complex and keeps alive the plants and trees that form a three-story botanical garden above the restaurant.

The restaurant’s pastel-colored interior palette favors whites, pinks, mints, and forest greens. For example, pink Moroccan tiles are a custom color from Ann Sacks, a specialty supplier. Brass light fixtures illuminate original artwork by Ellen Lesperance. Above the tables hang crescent pendant lights by Lee Broom.

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