Sparks fly from a welding torch. Steel beams sway on a crane rising above a city block. Designers inspect lighting fixtures installed in a new office building that's almost ready for tenants.

Seattle is a growing city, and behind all of the new buildings are agile teams of hardworking engineers, construction workers, architects, and designers who are dedicated to creating a vibrant neighborhood for everyone to enjoy. Throughout the state of Washington, Amazon has invested more than $75 billion. The company employs more than 53,500 people in Amazon's corporate headquarters in Seattle and has created 200,000 indirect jobs throughout the state in industries ranging from construction to healthcare.

Meet seven individuals with a range of skill, expertise, and personality, who represent the tens of thousands working on Amazon-related projects—from the interior designer who contemplates furniture that complements a building's story to the steelworker who frames a structure.

Pat Lammers

A 38-story crane looms far above the rush of cars and hustle of pedestrians on the edge of downtown Seattle. After a daily team meeting, Pat Lammers's workday begins with a 700-foot climb to the top of that crane. This typically takes the Sellen Construction crane operator a half hour of continuous climbing, but such is life for the operator of the tallest crane in the city.

A man in a white t-shirt, black pants, sunglasses, and work gloves stands atop a crane high above Seattle, WA. Behind him, Lake Union is visible.
Pat Lammers atop the highest crane in Seattle.
Photo by JOHN SA

"It's like climbing up the Space Needle with a ladder," he said.

Born and raised in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, Lammers began working in construction at age 23 with a four-year apprenticeship where he was trained to operate different machines.

I like the fact that I can look back and see what we built
– Pat Lammers

"I eventually settled on becoming a crane operator because it was what I was good at," Lammers said. "To operate a crane, you have to have good vision and depth perception. Excellent coordination helps. You also have to be good at multi-tasking and have a good sense of the space around you. It can be stressful. But it's healthy stress. It keeps me on my toes."

In the cab, Lammers hoists a stack of plywood from the ground up to the building's roof.

"It's a pretty good feeling. I love getting up and working with folks from all the different trades. I like the fact that I can look back and see what we built," he said.

A man in a khaki pants and lace up shoes stands atop a crane, high above Seattle, WA.
Photo by JOHN SA
Pat Lammers stands inside the operator's box of his crane, a dizzying 38 stories above the ground.
Buildings under construction on Amazon's South Lake Union campus. To the right, Amazon Day One, The Spheres, Amazon Meeting Center and Doppler buildings.
Photo by JORDAN STEAD / Amazon
Buildings under construction on Amazon's South Lake Union campus look across the street at the completed Doppler and Day 1 buildings, as well as the Seattle Spheres.
Buildings under construction on Amazon's South Lake Union campus. View from a building under construction, overlooking the former Mary's Place location, with the Space Needle in the background.
Photo by JORDAN STEAD / Amazon
Buildings under construction on Amazon's South Lake Union campus.
Buildings under construction on Amazon's South Lake Union campus. Two cranes are visible in the area that is cut stories below street level.
Photo by JORDAN STEAD / Amazon
Where today sites a giant hole, a 38 story building will soon rise.
Buildings under construction on Amazon's South Lake Union campus. A crane and temporary supports are shown in the image.
Photo by JORDAN STEAD / Amazon
Buildings under construction on Amazon's South Lake Union campus.
Buildings under construction on Amazon's South Lake Union campus. a beam with "Rufus Block 20" scribed on it.
Photo by JORDAN STEAD / Amazon
Rufus Block 20, under construction.
Buildings under construction on Amazon's South Lake Union campus. A construction worker carries 2x4s next to an "access" sign. A temporary staircase is in place near a crane.
Photo by JORDAN STEAD / Amazon
Buildings under construction on Amazon's South Lake Union campus.
A man in a construction helmet and orange safety jacket is photographed at a construction site on Amazon's campus in Seattle, WA. He is walking across an unfinished floor covered in rebar.
Photo by JORDAN STEAD
Luis Garcia walks across the unfinished floor of an Amazon building in Seattle, WA.
A man in construction helmet and orange safety jacket is photographed at a construction site on Amazon's campus in Seattle, WA. he is using a saw to cut through tubing.
Photo by JORDAN STEAD
Steelworker Luis Garcia, at work on an Amazon building in South Lake Union.

Luis Garcia

Below the surface of the buildings are the construction workers who create the concrete foundation and walls of the structures. "It's really cool to see when all of the rebar is in place. But nobody sees it ever again after it gets covered by the concrete," Luis Garcia said. "If you ask people what a rodbuster is, practically nobody knows what that is."

A man in construction helmet and orange safety jacket is photographed at a construction site on Amazon's campus in Seattle, WA. He is smiling at the camera.
Steelworker Luis Garcia at work.
Photo by JORDAN STEAD

Garcia expertly places lines of rebar and begins to secure metal ties on the steel together deftly. Within minutes, the reinforcing bars have transformed into a steel grid that strengthens the concrete foundation of a new mid-rise building. This is just a moment in the day-to-day of a "rodbuster" also known as a concrete reinforcing steelworker.

You get to say, 'I worked on that.'
Luis Garcia

Originally from Cashmere, Washington, Garcia first started working in steel in 2007. "I kind of fell into it," he recalled. "There was an ad for construction workers, and it was just something I liked. You're in a harness and climbing in high places. It felt pretty good to me because I used to rock climb a lot, and I just love being outside."

From there, Garcia has worked on many local projects including Home Plate Suite by Safeco Field, The Spheres, and many local apartment complexes.

"Working with the team, there's a lot of yelling and screaming, but at the end of the day, it's pretty fun to see what it is you're building," said Garcia, "You see that, and you get to say, ‘I worked on that.'"

Robert Henson

One construction worker who can say that for many buildings in the neighborhood is Robert Henson. He recalled his very first project in the field back in 1985. "It was a 47-story Pacific First project down between 3rd and 4th and Pike and Union," Henson said. "Back then it took years to build these high rises. These days, we can build much larger structures in a third of the time."

A man in a safety helmet and an orange safety vest stands outside, looking at buildings under construction.
Robert Henson looks up as a new tower takes shape.
Photo by JORDAN STEAD

Henson, a veteran laborer, has done it all but no task is too small as he checks a power unit on one of the lower floors of the Block 20 construction site. The device supplies power for the whole tower – everything from the elevator core to construction power tools relies on it.

"There is definitely a bond and trust that you build with these folks, which is so important on a construction team," said Henson. "These days, there are very few jobs that I go on where I don't know somebody. I guess it pays to be around for a while. "

There is definitely a bond and trust that you build with these folks.
Robert Henson

After more than three decades of construction work, Henson plans to retire after finishing on the current site. What does he imagine for his retirement years? "I'm planning to travel with my wife," he said. "Visit the grandkids and maybe take a few cruises."

Elaine Wine

Wine began her career in the design field as a Seattle-based architect in the mid-1990s but decided to bring her education and background to the client side. "I had seen owners who were not trained in design and construction. Sometimes they were asked to make critical decisions without understanding how that decision would affect the outcome of the job."

A woman in a blue and white suit, and a white blouse, is photographed inside The Seattle Spheres, a geometric greenhouse with plants from the Pacific Northwest. The background is the geometric windows of The Spheres, with the Seattle skyline in the background.
Elaine Wine in the Seattle Spheres. She managed the design and construction of the Seattle landmark.
Photo by JORDAN STEAD

She's found combining design and construction expertise with the property owner's vision, and goals upfront has delivered better building designs and outcomes.

"My favorite part of the job is connecting people and advocating for design," she said. "It excites me when you are able to connect the right people to solve a problem by getting input from many experts and building upon the ideas of others."

Aside from The Spheres, Wine has worked on other projects in the region such as the Seattle Seahawks' practice and training facility (The Virginia Mason Athletic Center) in Renton and the Good Samaritan Children's Hospital in Puyallup.

The Spheres - grown in 60 seconds

Tara Schneider

At any given time, Spokane native Tara Schneider is designing several different buildings at multiple stages of development. Schneider, a lead interior designer at Seattle-based architecture firm NBBJ, has worked on many projects in the Seattle area, including Sea-Tac Airport, Safeco Field, Swedish Medical Center, and Overlake Medical Center in Bellevue. Most recently, she's worked with Amazon HQ buildings including Doppler, the Meeting Center, Day One, and The Spheres as well as the design of nearby buildings.

A woman in a grey-striped shirt stands over a scale model of the South Lake Union neighborhood.
Photo by PAIGE MALOTT
NBBJ's Tara Schneider standing over a scale model of the South Lake Union neighborhood.
A woman in a grey-striped shirt stands over architectural designs. Her colleague is in the background at a computer.
Photo by PAIGE MALOTT
Interior designer Tara Schneider seeks to ensure that there are threads of consistency among buildings.
A woman's hands, with a large silver giraffe ring, points to architectural design plans.
Photo by PAIGE MALOTT
NBBJ's Tara Schneider looking over architectural plans of an Amazon office.
A woman in a grey-striped shirt stands over a large, scale model of downtown Seattle, looking down at the model.
Photo by PAIGE MALOTT
Interior Tara Schneider with a scale model of downtown Seattle.
A woman in a grey-striped shirt stands over fabric swatches, talking with a male colleague, her right hand extended in front of her.
Photo by PAIGE MALOTT
Interior designer Tara Schneider seeks to ensure that every Amazon office has consistency, but also a distinct personality.

Bigfoot, Houdini, and Nessie have all taken up residence on Amazon’s Seattle urban campus, but how did they end up there?

Schneider develops the interior of the space as part of the architecture team – from managing design plans and the development of materials and finishes, to furniture placement and coordination with other building systems.

"All of these buildings have their own character and personality," said Schneider. "The six buildings in the Denny Regrade have threads of consistency that unite them as a neighborhood."

Suraj Joshee

In addition to the designers, the buildings also require teams to ensure everything is up to code and working properly. Commissioning engineers like Suraj Joshee work throughout the building and operations process.

Originally from Kathmandu, Joshee first came to the United States as a mechanical engineering student. After a few different jobs that took him from Silicon Valley to New York City, he landed as a controls engineer 15 years ago. Over the last nine years as a commissioning engineer, he has been in charge of making sure all the systems and components of a building are designed, installed, and tested properly.

A man in short sleeved shirt and black pants stands among bright, blue-painted pipes of a waste-heat facility.
Suraj Joshee is the commissioning engineer responsible for the South Lake Union District Energy project.
Photo by JORDAN STEAD / Amazon

"Our main job is to be a completely unbiased third party consultant who does quality control," said Joshee. "We typically are brought on board in the design phases of the project and continue to work on a project through the different phases to past occupancy."

Unlike some other construction industry jobs, commissioning allows Joshee to work on many different buildings at once. Joshee has provided support for iconic Seattle buildings including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation building, the Space Needle, and many others.

Thanks to a collaboration across city agencies, engineers, a “carrier hotel” and others, an Amazon building is heated by recycling excess energy from a neighboring data center.

Joshee walks down to the basement of the Doppler building and begins to talk about pipes and pumps filling the room. "This is the District Energy Loop," Joshee said. "It allows heating or chilled water to be shared between the nearby blocks depending on the season. We also take waste heat from a non-Amazon data center and capture that energy for the buildings across the street."

While extremely energy efficient, maintaining the system is no small feat, especially when adding new buildings to the system. "At first, the system was stabilized to only support Amazon's Doppler building. Every time we add a new building, it takes a lot of testing and adjustment to ensure a stable operation."

Todd Holmes

Coordinating and installing a tree that's 49-feet tall and weighs more than 20,000 pounds took a stable operation of a different kind. Todd Holmes lent his expertise to The Spheres construction team to help bring a tree named "Rubi" to her new home in Seattle.

A man stands on a dirt road next to a truck and a bunch of saplings. He is wearing dark pants and a dark jacket that reads Big Trees.
Big Trees' Todd Holmes
Photo by JOHN SA

For The Spheres, Amazon's team of horticulturalists sourced plants from more than 30 countries around the world and brought them to Seattle on journeys from botanical gardens, tree nurseries, and conservation programs that span five continents. The Spheres' largest inhabitant – a Ficus Rubiginosa dubbed Rubi – was planted at a tree farm in California in 1969. To get to The Spheres, Rubi traveled more than 1,200 miles on the back of a flatbed truck, arriving in Seattle after a 3-day journey through California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.

Holmes first began moving trees when he was a teenager working for his father at Olympic Tree Farm, a Washington-based company that transplants trees. "I grew up working with him throughout the summers, and we had a lot of crazy adventures. I moved on to take over the company in my early twenties."

Rubi's trip to her new home

Through the years, Holmes has become a local expert in moving large, unconventional objects. Holmes has been involved in many notable projects including a large log installation at the Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Park.

"I find living trees one of the trickiest things to handle as freight goes. Nothing is reliable or firm," he said. "The strongest thing you've got is the trunk, but even that is fragile in its bark, which can slip off if you grab it in the wrong way and lead to the death of the tree. Still, there's nothing I'd rather do for a living."