Space Needle – the Landmark of Seattle

The Space Needle, an observation tower and symbol of Seattle, is considered a landmark of the Pacific Northwest. It was originally built for the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle. Since many visitors were expected, the elevators were specially equipped to bring as many passengers as possible to the observation deck.

The Needle is the tallest building west of the Mississippi at 605 feet (184 m) tall and 138 feet (42 m) wide. In total, the building weighs 9550 tons. Its construction and weight allows it to withstand winds of up to 200 miles per hour (89 m/s) and earthquakes of up to a magnitude of 9.1.

Visitors reach the top of the Space Needle using elevators that can travel up to 10 miles per hour (4.5 m/s). As a result, the journey to the top only takes 41 seconds. On windy days, the elevators run slower for safety reasons.

The main attraction is an observation deck at 520 feet (160 m) and the rotating SkyCity Restaurant at 500 feet (150 m). From here you have a view of downtown Seattle as well as the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, Elliott Bay and the surrounding islands.

Photos of the Seattle skyline are particularly well-known, often showing the Space Needle above the skyscrapers and Mount Rainier in the background. But she was also famous for being filmed in Seattle in 1993 for the film Insomniac.

Architecture of the Space Needle

According to iamaccepted, the Space Needle’s architecture is the result of a compromise between the designs of two men, Edward E. Carlson and John Graham.

Jr. Edward E. Carlson’s sketch included a giant balloon tethered to the ground and architect John Graham conceived a flying saucer. In the end, they agreed on a combination of both, the hourglass profile.

An important construction requirement was that the tower be able to withstand strong winds and earthquakes. In addition, there were unresolved financing issues at the beginning of the construction work, but these could be clarified in good time during the one-year construction period.

When completed, the Space Needle was the second tallest structure in the United States west of the Mississippi, after the pylons of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Needle opened SkyCity with a restaurant serving Pacific Northwest cuisine. The highlight of the restaurant is the 360 ​​degree rotation, which takes exactly 47 minutes. It was the first tower structure with a revolving restaurant in North America. Numerous television and observation towers were built around the world based on his model.

On December 31, 1999, a powerful beam of light was revealed atop the Needle’s dome, dubbed the Legacy Light or Skybeam. It shines skyward and is turned on for special occasions such as national holidays. It was lit for eleven consecutive days after the September 11, 2001 attack.

This Seattle attraction was listed as a Historic Landmark in 1999. The Space Needle is now the eighth tallest structure in Seattle.

History of the Space Needle

Edward E. Carlson, chairman of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, originally had an idea to build a tower with a restaurant at the World’s Fair. Carlson was then president of a hotel company. He had been inspired by the Stuttgart Tower in Germany, which he had visited in the spring of 1959. Especially the exhibition motto “The life of man in the space age” fit a restaurant in the sky.

Architect John Graham, who won an award for designing Seattle’s Northgate Mall, was commissioned to design the restaurant.

Initial designs featured a slender, stilt-like base with a spire like a balloon, but there was no elevator. So the design was revised and designed more filigree.

Funding was discussed during the design development of the tower, but no investors came together, so the project had to be funded privately.

As of 1961, there was no location for the Space Needle. In 1961, Graham’s company bought a 120 to 120 foot (37 to 37 m) lot for $75,000. Now only one year remained until the start of the world exhibition. Built privately by Pentagram Corporation with financial support from Bagley Wright, contractor Howard S. Wright, architect John Graham, Ned Skinner and Norton Clapp.

The Howard S. Wright company was awarded the construction contract, but before construction began, the University of Washington wind tunnel tested what the tower could withstand. Construction work began on April 17, 1961. In order to be ready in time for the world exhibition, the object had to be built very quickly.

The Space Needle’s seismic stability was ensured by digging a hole over 30 ft (9.1 m) deep and 120 ft (37 m) wide. After that, it took about 467 concrete mixer trucks and a whole day to fill the hole. The foundation weighs a total of 5850 tons. In addition, the structure is bolted to the foundation with 72 bolts, each 30 ft (9.1 m) long. The 27.4 meter long and 40 ton curved double steel legs along the tower shaft were manufactured in Chicago and shipped to Seattle.

The domed top with restaurants and observation deck was perfectly balanced and the restaurant could rotate. Now all that was left to do was paint it, getting an olive color for the orbital body, astronaut white for the legs, red for the saucer and galaxy gold for the roof. Thus, the Space Needle was completed in less than a year. In total, construction cost $4,500,000.

The last elevator car was installed on the opening day of the fair. During the fair, almost 20,000 people per day were taken to the observation deck by elevators. The Space Needle was considered the absolute attraction of the fair, as it was the tallest building in the western United States at the time. At 184.4 meters tall, it superseded Seattle’s 159-meter neoclassical Smith Tower.

The revolving restaurant was operated by Western International Hotels from April 1, 1962 to April 1, 1982. It was architect Graham’s second revolving restaurant after the one in the Ala Moana Center mall in Honolulu.

On April 29, 1965, the Space Needle had to withstand the first major earthquake. The tremor, which measured between 6.5 and 7.0 on the Richter scale, caused the tower to shake slightly but did not cause any damage.

In 1968, the conspicuous color scheme of the turret was changed to “astronaut white”.

In the early 1980s, the revolving restaurant was modernized and completely overhauled. In 1982 the SkyLine level was added at a height of 100 feet (30 m).

Between 1999 and 2000, the SkyCity Restaurant, SpaceBase Store, Skybeam Installation and Observation Deck underwent a major refurbishment.

In April 2012, as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations, the wicker tower roof was repainted in the original Galaxy Gold color.

Carillon during the world exhibition

A chime was installed in the Space Needle and played several times a day during the World’s Fair. Called Carillon Americana, it was the largest carillon in the world at 538 bells until the 1964 New York World’s Fair was built in New York with 732 bells. By enclosing the instrument in a glass area, one can see the musicians playing the instruments. After the world exhibition the carillon was dismantled.

After the fair

A 1974 children’s book, The Wheedle, featured a furry creature called the Wheedle living on top of the Space Needle. The Wheedle became a Seattle staple and the mascot of the Seattle Supersonics National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise.

Tower basket of the Space Needle

The four-storey cylindrical tower basket has two white lamellar rings on the outside. The tower basket is completed by an inverted saucer.

A cocktail lounge and the SkyCity revolving restaurant are located on the lower floor of the tower basket at a height of 152.4 meters. On this floor, the tower basket has a diameter of 28.8 meters. The administrative offices are on the second floor.

The viewing platform is on the third floor at a height of 158.5 meters. Visitors have the opportunity to have the view explained to them via interactive audio guides and to understand the history of the tower using information boards. Views of Seattle’s Cascade Range to the east, Mount Rainier and the downtown skyline to the south, Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains to the west, and Lake Union and Mount Baker to the north.

On the fourth floor there is a service floor, which houses the air conditioning and the installation of heating and ventilation and is not open to the public.

The red air traffic warning light on the top of the flagpole is powered by a gas burner.

In addition to the two elevators, there is also a freight elevator and a spiral staircase that leads from the base to the basket in 832 steps.

In addition, in 2000, at the foot of the Spaceneedle, a completely covered area was added in the form of a pavilion, which serves as an entrance and waiting area for the elevators.

Since 1982 there has been a two-storey SkyLine pavilion made of glass and metal at a height of 30.5 metres. It is also called 100-foot level because of the height in feet.

New Year’s Eve in Seattle and events at the Space Needle

Every year on New Year’s Eve, the Space Needle celebrates the beginning of a new year with fireworks and music. Renowned firework artists stage the show. This celebration is now as famous as New Year’s Eve in New York’s Times Square.

On the way to Atlanta and Salt Lake City, the Olympic torch relay at the Space Needle was celebrated with fireworks. The dome is also decorated for special events. Since 1999, a sky projector has been shining on the dome for special events, optically lengthening the tower.

BASE jumping

There were incidents involving six parachutists who jumped from the tower. This activity can now only be carried out with prior approval. In addition, after three suicides, an additional fence was installed on the viewing platform.

Sights close-by

In the immediate vicinity of the tower are the sports facility Memorial Field to the north and the Museum of Pop Music Experience Music Project to the north-east, as well as the headquarters of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Also nearby on campus south of the tower are the Seattle Children’s Museum and the Pacific Science Center, home to two IMAX theaters, the Boeing IMAX Theater and the PACCAR IMAX Theater.

namesake of the Space Needle

In Gatlinburg, on the edge of Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a 124-meter-tall observation tower also bears the name Space Needle.

towers of the world

There are now large towers all over the world, we have put together the most impressive ones for you here: Burj Khalifa in Dubai, CN Tower in Toronto, Eiffel Tower in Paris, Empire State Building in New York City, Skydeck Chicago in Chicago, The View from The Shard in London and Shanghai Orient Pearl Tower in Shanghai.

Space Needle tickets & opening times

Whether you want to see a landmark or the city lights at night, the Space Needle is open most of the time. The Observation Deck and SpaceBase Retail Store are open Monday through Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. However, it is sometimes partially closed for special events and holidays.

There are different entrance tickets, the prices are between $19 and $39$.

Directions to Space Needle In Seattle

Seattle’s Needle is located about two kilometers north of downtown Seattle in the Lower Queen Anne district, in the so-called Seattle Center, a 300,000 square meter park area with cultural and leisure facilities.

Address of the Space Needle in Washington

400 Broad St.
Seattle, WA 98109
United States

Space Needle - the Landmark of Seattle