For the newest building at Nike’s Beaverton, Oregon headquarters, Skylab Architecture, working with former Nike CEO Mark Parker, designed a jagged set of intersecting forms in metal and glass that, in ways small and large, pay homage to tennis star Serena Williams. French Open- and U.S. Open-themed cafés and a Wimbledon-inspired bar celebrate Williams’s tournament career. Memorabilia cases on the first floor commemorate Williams’s unmatched Grand Slam record, with room for additional objects to be added in the future. The curving walls of the outdoor garden follow the swooshing line of Williams’s tennis stroke. One of the building’s bathrooms is even modeled on the Flushing Meadows New York City subway station used by U.S. Open spectators.
Serena Williams. Photo © Edwin Martinez, via Flickr
Williams, for her part, seems proud of the result. “When I was a kid I visited the Nike campus and I saw that athletes get buildings,” she wrote in an Instagram post marking the building’s opening in April. “After that visit, I knew I wanted two things: to be a Nike athlete and to have a building.”
Williams, who announced yesterday that she will compete at Wimbledon this year as a wild card pick, joins a small cadre of elite athletes with buildings named after them on the Nike campus, among them Tiger Woods, Mia Hamm, Michael Jordan, and fellow tennis legend John McEnroe. But Williams’s building is distinguished in several ways: at one million square feet, it is the company’s largest to date; and with LEED Platinum certification and a laundry list of sustainability features, including a “salmon-safe” design that reduces water pollution, it at least partially offsets its environmental impact.
A large sign commemorating Williams stands in the building's garden. Photo © Bitterman Photography
The new building consists of three main wings arrayed around an 11-story central tower. In addition to its many employee amenities, it houses merchandising and design teams, among other staff, and includes 200,000 square feet of lab space. Linking the wings are two crystalline glass bridges, one of which passes over a garden featuring native plantings and a large sign commemorating Williams. Nearby, the “Wall of Athletes in Activism” is emblazoned with the names of athletes who have taken stands for social justice, including Williams as well as Colin Kaepernick.
An extensive art program enlivens the complex and includes works by experimental architect Jenny Sabin, Gemma O’Brien, Daniel Canogar, and other contemporary artists, many of which Nike says reference Williams.
Along with the Serena Williams Building, Nike also debuted the Shoe Dog Bridge, a timber pedestrian bridge that traverses the nearby Cedar Mill Creek. Designed by the landscape firm PLACE, the bridge’s box truss and angular roof reference places of importance to Nike co-founder Phil Knight, whose 2016 memoir is entitled Shoe Dog. Fittingly, the bridge links the Williams building to a running trail that snakes across Nike’s ever-growing headquarters campus.
The PLACE-designed Shoe Dog Bridge on Nike's campus. Photo © Bitterman Photography