Exclusive: Nike Unveils The Serena Williams Building, Its New Home Of Design And Innovation
Photo Credit: Dia Dipasupil

Exclusive: Nike Unveils The Serena Williams Building, Its New Home Of Design And Innovation

When you’re the greatest athlete of all time (GOAT), it’s only right that there’s a building named in your honor. Furthermore, it is imperative that the structure also reflects and exudes the excellence that you’ve brought to the world of sports. With that said, as a brand that champions its athletes, Nike has officially opened its doors to the Serena Williams Building.

As a space that is equivalent to 140 full-size tennis courts, the Serena Williams Building is now the largest office building to sit on the campus of the Nike World Headquarters, located in Portland, OR.

Courtesy of Nike

“The whole building takes your breath away,” said Serena Williams. “Every element, everywhere you go, is an opportunity to be inspired. I hope this building encourages people to bring out the best of themselves and to dream bigger than they thought possible.”

The Serena Williams Building

As a legend with 23 Grand Slam titles under her belt, Serena Williams embodies what it means to not only be a great athlete but revolutionary in a sport where people who look like her have rarely been accepted and hardly get the chance to merely exist. Yet, time after time, she continues to show the world that her greatness extends far beyond just her athletic ability.

Designed by Portland-based Skylab Architecture in collaboration with Executive Chairman of NIKE, Inc., Mark Parker, the new building includes 140,000-square-feet of showrooms and workspace. It also includes a footwear materials library along with a color lab. 

Another element of the building that’s sure to blow folks’ minds is the 140-seat Olympia Theater which is named after (take a wild guess), the four-year-old daughter of Serena Williams and her husband Alexis Ohanian.

Other key elements of the structure include workspaces that are tailored to push employees to design alongside the backdrop of stories that speak to the athletes, sports, and culture of innovation at Nike.

The Future Of Nike Design

The Serena Williams Building will serve as the home to future change-makers, offering Nike’s Consumer Creation teams the resources needed to thrive in areas of development, presentation, and the merchandising of Nike products.

“For me, Nike is the ultimate place to innovate and be a designer,” said Williams. “To know this building will be home of Nike’s product design and Consumer Creation teams is incredibly surreal. It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve been a part of.”

It’s also important to note that Williams played a significant role in the development of the new space.

“I think it’s important to work with Serena at the level that we do because it makes everything better,” Nike Vice President, Head of Global Brand Defining Creative and Brand Innovation, Jonathan Johnsongriffin told AfroTech. “It helps us pick a better cohort and it helps us to better tell the story while picking styles that are more relevant to the story and direction we want to go in. To have her so involved in the program pushes us.”

He continued: “We do design reviews with Serena and she pushes the apprentices because she wants it to be great. At the end of the day, when that collection comes out, we want people to see the power that comes with diversity and design.”

Black Women Drive The Culture Forward

And of course, an edifice named in honor of Serena Williams has to reflect the fact that when it comes to the culture (of just about everything) Black women are the tastemakers, period.

“Black women have played such an inspiring role in sneaker culture, from the essence of creation of culture to design and so much more. There’s been such power aligned with it,” Nike VP of Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Jarvis Sam told AfroTech. “For us, as we think about where our investments are being made, we recognize that the experience and identity of Black women has to be one that’s captured in the narrative of the development of footwear, apparel and equipment. It’s those same approaches that we use in our development of the Serena design crew. To truly develop a Serena-inspired collection requires us to consider the lenses of her various identities and how we bring that to the table.”

Click here for a peek inside the Serena Williams Building.