Why are the building numbers on Microsoft main campus so erratic?

Raymond Chen


Carrie complains that the building numbers on Microsoft main campus are completely random. Why is building 22 near buildings 40 and 41, far, far away from building 24?
Because the Microsoft campus evolved.
Many many years ago, the space on which the central Microsoft campus resides was a mill. Eventually it became an office park, and when Microsoft decided to move its headquarters there, it carved out a little wooded area and constructed four buildings, logically numbered 1 through 4.
Later, the campus expanded, and plans were drawn up for three more buildings, logically numbered (and placed) 5 through 7. Two of those buildings were constructed, but the third was not built for reasons shrouded in mystery. When the campus expanded a third time, the new buildings were numbered 8 through 11. Presumably, at this point, there were still plans to construct Building 7 someday, so the number remained assigned to the planned-but-not-yet-built building. (Even if the Building 7 plans had been abandoned, the number had already been used in the plans submitted to the City of Redmond, and revising them would have entailed additional paperwork for no real benefit aside from satisfying some anal-retentive compulsion to ensure that every number was used. People who worry about this probably are also waiting for DirectX 4.)
The campus grew, and each time new buildings were added, they received the next available number. The result of this was that buildings with consecutive numbers could very well end up far apart on campus.
When the Microsoft main campus expanded across highway 520, the people in charge of assigning numbers decided to assign numbers starting at 100 for buildings on the other side of the highway. Mind you, they didn’t stick to that plan rigidly, as there are some buildings numbered in the high 90’s on that part of the campus.
Once the idea of assigning non-consecutive numbers was breached, the number-assigning people went to town. There is a cluster of buildings in the 40’s, another in the 50’s (with Building 50 being an outlier), and another in the 80’s.
So at least the numbers for newer buildings are a bit less crazy. But if you’re looking for an older building, you’re going to have a rough time of it.
Maybe if the original building-numbering people had had the foresight to name the buildings after their GPS coordinates.
Bonus chatter: In 2009, the building-numbering people tried to rename Buildings 116 through 119 to Studios E through H, presumably because they were across the street from Studios A through D. This “Rebranding Project” was largely mocked. (And of course, just to make things confusing, the new names appear to have been assigned randomly.)

Bonus chatter 2: The original Building 100 was demolished to make way for The Commons. The soon-to-be-displaced residents of Building 100 had a “demolition party” on their last day in the building, wherein they went around spraying graffiti, smashing walls with sledgehammers, that sort of thing.

Raymond Chen
Raymond Chen

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