Space Needle, Seattle

Space Needle is an iconic landmark in the Pacific Northwest and Seattle in particular. The observation tower provides a fantastic view of the Lower Queen View, Seattle, and the surrounding areas, including the Cascade Mountains, Elliot Bay, Mount Rainier, and the Puget Sound islands in the Pacific Ocean. The tower is 184 meters tall, 42 meters wide, and weighs about 8.7 million kilograms. Constructed for the 1962 World’s Fair, the Space Needle is now one of Seattle’s designated landmarks representing the city’s futuristic vision. During the event, about 20,000 visitors used the tower’s elevator daily.

Structural Specification

Space Needle
Aerial drone image of the Seattle Space Needle. Editorial credit: Felix Mizioznikov / Shutterstock.com

The Space Needle is built to withstand natural calamities like earthquakes and strong winds. The structure’s underground foundation is 9 meters deep and about 37 meters wide. The tower itself is 42 meters wide and 184 meters tall. It was the tallest structure on the Mississippi River’s west upon its completion in 1961. The Space Needle weighs about 8.7 million kilograms, almost the same weight as its foundation. As a result, the tower’s center of gravity is only 1.5 meters from the ground. 72 bolts, each measuring 9.1 meters long, were used to bolt the structure to the foundation. Earthquakes of magnitudes of up to 9.0 or winds with a maximum speed of 320 km/h cannot damage the structure. Above the tower is a rotating disk hosting the SkyCity restaurant, which takes less than one hour to rotate 360 degrees. A spiral entryway leads to the elevator, while an 848-step main stairwell leads from the basement to the observation deck.

Construction

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Queue of tourists waiting for tickets for going up to Observation Deck at The Space Needle in Seattle, Washington. Editorial credit: happycreator / Shutterstock.com

Inspired by Germany’s Stuttgart Tower, Edward F Carlson (1962 World’s Fair chairperson) wanted a restaurant on a tower for the 1962 event. Soon, John Graham, a successful Seattle architecture, got involved in the project. Graham redesigned the structure to include a revolving restaurant. Since the tower’s construction was a private project, the city did not finance it. After months of searching for suitable land, the investors discovered a 37 m by 37 m plot in 1961 and purchased it at $75,000. The Pentagram Corporation financed and built the Needle.

The Needle’s construction began on April 17, 1961. The work began with digging a hole, 9.1 meters deep and 37 meters wide, as the structure’s foundation. It took 467 concrete trucks to fill the foundation. With the construction team running out of time, they worked day and night to ensure the structure was completed before the Fair. The structure was completed in December 1961 and opened on April 21, 1962, a day to the Fair. The Space Needle cost about $4.5 million to build.

After Fair To Present

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Observation deck of the Space Needle offering a view of the Seattle city.

During the Fair, the Space Needle attracted about 2.3 million visitors. A year after the Fair, RADIO KING and KING-TV built began using the broadcast studio on the observation level for their morning broadcast. The two stations hosted their morning shows at the Space Needle until 1966. In 1977, Howard Wright Companies became the sole owner of the structure and placed it under Space Needle Corporation. The SkyLine level, accommodating 20-360 people, was added to the Needle at a height of 30 meters in 1982. Three people committed suicide by jumping from the structure between 1974 and 1978.

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