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Space Needle

space needle, space needle restaurant
The Space Needle is an observation tower in Seattle, Washington, a landmark of the Pacific Northwest, and an icon of Seattle It was built in the Seattle Center for the 1962 World's Fair, which drew over 23 million visitors, when nearly 20,000 people a day used its elevators

Once the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River,7 it is 605 ft 184 m high, 138 ft 42 m wide, and weighs 9,550 tons It is built to withstand winds of up to 200 miles per hour 89 m/s and earthquakes of up to 91 magnitude,8 as strong as the 1700 Cascadia earthquake It also has 25 lightning rods

It has an observation deck at 520 ft 160 m and the rotating SkyCity restaurant at 500 ft 150 m7 The downtown Seattle skyline, as well as the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, Elliott Bay and surrounding islands can be viewed from the top of the Needle Photographs of the Seattle skyline often show the Space Needle prominently, above skyscrapers and Mount Rainier

Visitors can reach the top of the Space Needle by elevators that travel at 10 miles per hour 45 m/s The trip takes 41 seconds On windy days, the elevators slow to 5 miles per hour 22 m/s On April 19, 1999, the city's Landmarks Preservation Board designated it a historic landmark79


  • 1 Architecture
  • 2 History
    • 21 Construction
    • 22 Carillon
    • 23 After the Fair
  • 3 Jumping incidents
  • 4 In culture
  • 5 Gallery
  • 6 See also
  • 7 References
  • 8 Further reading
  • 9 External links


  • CN Tower, Toronto
  • Willis Tower Sears Tower, Chicago
  • Stratosphere, Las Vegas
  • Space Needle, Seattle
The top of the Space Needle

The architecture of the Space Needle is the result of a compromise between the designs of two men, Edward E Carlson and John Graham, Jr The two leading ideas for the World Fair involved businessman Edward E Carlson's sketch of a giant balloon tethered to the ground see the gently sloping base and architect John Graham's concept of a flying saucer see the halo that houses the restaurant and observation deck7 Victor Steinbrueck introduced the hourglass profile of the tower10 The Space Needle was built to withstand wind speeds of 200 mph 322 km/h, double the requirements in the building code of 1962 The Mw 68 Nisqually earthquake jolted the Needle enough in 2001 for water to slosh out of the toilets in the restrooms The Space Needle will not sustain serious structural damage during earthquakes of magnitudes below 9 Also made to withstand Category 5 hurricane-force winds, the Space Needle sways only 1 inch per 10 mph 16 mm per 10 km/h of wind speed

For decades, the hovering disk of the Space Needle was home to two restaurants 500 ft 150 m above the ground: the Space Needle Restaurant, which was originally named Eye of the Needle, and Emerald Suite These were closed in 2000 to make way for SkyCity, a larger restaurant that features Pacific Northwest cuisine It rotates 360 degrees in exactly forty-seven minutes11 In 1993, the elevators were replaced with new computerized versions The new elevators descend at a rate of 10 miles per hour 45 m/s

On December 31, 1999, a powerful beam of light was unveiled for the first time Called the Legacy Light or Skybeam, it is powered by lamps that total 85 million candela shining skyward from the top of the Space Needle to honor national holidays and special occasions in Seattle The concept of this beam was derived from the official 1962 World's Fair poster, which depicted such a light source although none was incorporated into the original design It is somewhat controversial because of the light pollution it creates12 Originally planned to be turned on 75 nights per year, it has generally been used fewer than a dozen times per year It did remain lit for eleven days in a row from September 11, 2001, to September 22, 2001, in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks13

A 1962 Seattle World's Fair poster14 showed a grand spiral entryway leading to the elevator that was ultimately omitted from final building plans15 The stairway was eventually added as part of the Pavilion and Spacebase remodel in June 2000 The main stairwell has 848 steps from the basement to the top of the observation deck7 At approximately 605 ft 184 m, the Space Needle was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River at the time it was built by Howard S Wright Construction Co, but is now dwarfed by other structures along the Seattle skyline, among them the Columbia Center, at 967 ft 295 m16 Unlike many other similar structures, such as the CN Tower in Toronto, the Space Needle is not used for broadcasting purposes



Edward F Carlson, chairman of the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle, originally had an idea for erecting a tower with a restaurant at the World's Fair Carlson was then president of a hotel company and not previously known for art or design, but he was inspired by a recent visit to the Stuttgart Tower of Germany John Graham, an architect who had won praise for designing Northgate Mall in Seattle, soon became involved Graham's first move was to alter the restaurant featured in the plans to a revolving restaurant, in the same manner as on a tower La Ronde he had previously designed for the Ala Moana Shopping Center

The proposed Space Needle had no land where they could build Since it was not financed by the city, land had to be purchased that was within the fairgrounds The investors thought that there would be no land available to build a tower and the search for a site was nearly dead when, in 1961, they discovered a plot, 120 by 120 ft 37 by 37 m, containing switching equipment for the fire and police alarm systems The land sold for $75,000 At this point, only one year remained before the World's Fair would begin It was privately built and financed by the Pentagram Corporation, which consisted of Bagley Wright, contractor Howard S Wright, architect John Graham, Ned Skinner, and Norton Clapp In 1977 Bagley, Skinner and Clapp sold their interest to Howard Wright who now controls it under the name of Space Needle Corporation17

The earthquake stability of the Space Needle was ensured when a hole was dug 30 ft 91 m deep and 120 ft 37 m across, and 467 concrete trucks took one full day to fill it The foundation weighs 5850 tons including 250 tons of reinforcing steel, the same as the above-ground structure The structure is bolted to the foundation with 72 bolts, each one 30 ft 91 m long

With time an issue, the construction team worked around the clock The domed top, housing the top five levels including the restaurants and observation deck, was perfectly balanced so that the restaurant could rotate with the help of one tiny electric motor, originally 08 kilowatts 11 hp, later replaced with a 11 kilowatts 15 hp motor With paint colors named Orbital Olive for the body, Astronaut White for the legs, Re-entry Red for the saucer, and Galaxy Gold for the roof, the Space Needle was finished in less than one year It was completed in April 1962 at a cost of $45 million The last elevator car was installed the day before the Fair opened on April 21 During the course of the Fair nearly 20,000 people a day rode the elevators to the Observation Deck The 20,000 mark was never reached, missed by fewer than 50 people one day At the time of construction, it was the tallest building in the West, taking the title from the Smith Tower across town that had held that title since 1914

The revolving restaurant was operated by Western International Hotels, of which Carlson was President,18 under a 20-year contract from April 1, 1962 to April 1, 198219


An imitation carillon20 a multi-bell musical device was installed in the Space Needle, and played several times a day during the World's Fair The instrument, built by the Schulmerich Bells Company of Hatfield, Pennsylvania21 under the name "Carillon Americana," recreated the sounds of 538 bells and was the largest in the world, until eclipsed by a 732 bell instrument at the 1964 New York World's Fair The operator's console was located in the base of the Space Needle, completely enclosed in glass to allow observation of the musician playing the instrument It was also capable of being played from a roll, just as a player piano would be The forty-four stentors speakers of the carillon were located underneath the Needle's disc at the 200 foot level, and were audible over the entire fairgrounds and up to ten miles away22 The carillon was disassembled after the fair's close

The carillon bells were featured on an LP record called "Bells On Hi-Fi" catalog number AR-8, produced by Americana Records, of Sellersville, Pennsylvania There are 12 pieces recorded on the "Carillon Americana" before it was installed in the Space Needle, performed by noted carilloneur John Klein 1915-19812324

After the Fairedit

The Space Needle, seen here in May 2012, was painted Galaxy Gold for its 50th anniversary celebration

In 1974, author Stephen Cosgrove's children's book Wheedle on the Needle postulated a furry creature called a Wheedle who lived on top of the Space Needle and caused its light to flash Its closing quatrain is: There's a Wheedle on the Needle / I know just what you're thinking / But if you look up late at night / You'll see his red nose blinking The Wheedle has since become a fixture of Seattle It even became the mascot of the Seattle SuperSonics National Basketball Association NBA franchise, who played in nearby KeyArena originally known as the Seattle Center Coliseum The SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City on July 3, 2008

In 1982, the SkyLine level was added at a height of 100 ft 30 m While this level had been depicted in the original plans for the Space Needle, it was not built until this time Today, the SkyLine Banquet Facility can accommodate groups of 20–360 people

Renovations were completed in 2000 that cost approximately the same as the original construction price $21 million in current currency Renovations between 1999 and 2000 included the SkyCity restaurant, SpaceBase retail store, Skybeam installation, Observation Deck overhaul, lighting additions and repainting

Every year on New Year's Eve, the Space Needle celebrates with a fireworks show at midnight that is synchronized to music The worldwide renowned fireworks artist from Bellevue, Alberto Navarro has been designing the show for the past 20 year since inception in 1994 In 2000, public celebrations were canceled but the fireworks show was still performed because of perceived terror threats against the structure after investigations into the foiled millennium bombing plots

On May 19, 2007, the Space Needle welcomed its 45 millionth visitor, Greg Novoa of San Francisco He received a free trip for two to Paris, which included a VIP dinner at the Eiffel Tower25

In May 2008, the Space Needle received its first professional cleaning since the opening of the 1962 World's Fair The monument was pressure washed by Kärcher26 with water at a pressure of 20,000 kilopascals 2,900 psi and a temperature of 90 °C 194 °F No detergents were used in consideration of the Seattle Center and the EMP building27

As part of the celebration of its 50th anniversary, the Needle was painted "Galaxy Gold" in April 2012, the same color used when the needle was originally constructed for the 1962 World's Fair28 This temporary makeover, intended to last through the summer, is not the Needle's first: it had the University of Washington UW Huskies football team logo painted on after the team won the 1992 Rose Bowl, appeared as a giant "Wheel of Fortune" in 1995, was painted crimson after Washington State won the Apple Cup,29 and has been seen in Seattle SuperSonics colors7

Jumping incidentsedit

Six parachutists have leaped from the tower since its opening, in a sport known as BASE jumping This activity is only legal with prior consent Four of them were part of an authorized promotion in 1996,30 and the other two were arrested31

Paul D Baker was the first person to jump from the Space Needle in a successful suicide attempt on March 4, 197432

Mary Lucille Wolf purchased a ticket for the elevator to the observation deck on May 25, 1974 where she proceeded to scale the glass fence surrounding the deck onto the edge and jumped off in what the Seattle Police Department called "an obvious suicide"32 Police found a correspondence in Wolf's purse that was from a friend extending their condolences regarding the recent death of Wolf's husband32

Following the two suicides in 1974 a netting and additional fencing were installed on the observation deck33 However, another suicide occurred on July 5, 1978 when an unidentified "young woman" as described in a United Press International report climbed over the suicide-prevention netting and leaped to her death on the northeast side of the structure34

In cultureedit

Being a major symbol of the Pacific Northwest, the Space Needle has made numerous appearances in films, TV shows and other works of fiction A few examples of films include It Happened at the World's Fair 1962, where it was used as a filming location, and Sleepless in Seattle 1993 In the 1974 film The Parallax View, the inside and outside platforms of the observation deck are the setting for a political assassination, and there's a brief chase on the roof above it In the 1999 film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, it served as a base of operations for the villain Doctor Evil with the word Starbucks written across its saucer after his henchman Number 2 shifted the organization's resources toward the coffee company It is also featured prominently in Chronicle 2012, and is a key element in the film's climax On April 1, 2015, public radio station KPLU 885 FM reported in the news story "Proposed Development To 'Assimilate' Seattle's Landmark Space Needle" that a permit application Notice of Proposed Land Use Action had been submitted "to construct a 666 unit cube to assimilate" the landmark The story is an April Fools' Day practical joke35

In TV shows, one of the most prominent showings is in the series Frasier where an outline of it appears in the opening credits and the base of it is visible from the high-rise condo although the view is really a composite image as there are no high rise condos in the right area of that height36 It also appears in nearly every episode of the Seattle-set series Grey's Anatomy, often in helicopter fly-by shots The Space Needle also makes appearances in Nickelodeon TV show iCarly, in which it can be seen with other surrounding buildings in the Seattle area The TV game show Wheel of Fortune has been filmed in Seattle—when the top of the Space Needle was painted to look like the Wheel of Fortune

Other TV appearances include The History Channel's Life After People, in which it collapses after 200 years because of corrosion It was also destroyed in the TV miniseries 105 when a 79 earthquake hits Seattle The movie mistakenly portrays the Needle as crumbling concrete, though the structure is actually made of iron and designed to withstand up to a 90 earthquake The needle is also featured in some episodes of Bill Nye the Science Guy, such as the episode "Storms" where Bill Nye uses the lightning rod on top of it as an example of conducting lightning strikes Max Guevara, the main character from the series Dark Angel which is set in a post-apocalyptic Seattle, is often seen on the roof of the derelict Space Needle37

The Space Needle has been used for some other purposes as well, including a 57 piece Lego construction set of it that has been released as part of Lego Architecture's structures,better source needed38 and is featured prominently on the default wallpaper in Microsoft Windows 8


See alsoedit

  • Seattle portal
  • Fernsehturm Berlin
  • Googie architecture
  • Henninger Turm
  • New York State Pavilion
  • Oriental Pearl Tower
  • Reunion Tower
  • Skylon Tower
  • Stratosphere Las Vegas
  • Sydney Tower
  • Tokyo Skytree
  • Tower of the Americas


  1. ^ "Landmarks and Designation" City of Seattle Retrieved 2013-03-05 
  2. ^ "Space Needle" CTBUH Skyscraper Database 
  3. ^ Space Needle at Emporis
  4. ^ Space Needle at Glass Steel and Stone
  5. ^ "Space Needle" SkyscraperPage 
  6. ^ Space Needle at Structurae
  7. ^ a b c d e f "Space Needle Fun Facts" Space Needle Official Site August 19, 2015 Retrieved August 19, 2015 
  8. ^ "Space Needle" 
  9. ^ "Seattle holds groundbreaking ceremony for the Space Needle on April 17, 1961" HistoryLinkorg Retrieved 2007-01-12 
  10. ^ Speidel, Bill Through the Eye of the Needle Seattle: Nettle Creek pp 6–7 ISBN 0914890042 The final design was either John Graham's or Victor Steinbrueck's, who took the trouble of calling me from his deathbed to make sure I didn't credit Graham 
  11. ^ "Needle in the sky" Via Magazine January 2006 
  12. ^ "Big beam for Space Needle is protested" Seattle Times 30 November 1999 
  13. ^ Jacobs, Jeff June 3, 2013 "Seattle Space Needle" Emerald City Journal Retrieved 2013-12-20 
  14. ^ ""Seattle World's Fair" poster" 
  15. ^ Northwest, Durango 16 July 2010 "Durango Washington: Seattle Space Needle" 
  16. ^ Emporis GmbH "Columbia Center" 
  17. ^ http://wwwspaceneedlecom/discover/funfactshtml
  18. ^ "About the Needle - Space Needle" 
  19. ^ http://wwwwsulibswsuedu%2Fmasc%2Fwestin%2FCombinedmodDatexls
  20. ^ http://schulmerichbellscom/g5-carillon/
  21. ^ "Schulmerich Bells" 
  22. ^ "Space Needle History: Sounds of the Needle" 
  23. ^ "Century 21 Exposition 1962: Theme Songs and Souvenir Records - HistoryLinkorg" 
  24. ^ rixarcade 15 August 2013 "The Space Needle Carillon - Malaguena" – via YouTube 
  25. ^ P-I Staff and News Services May 19, 2007 "Californian is Needle's 45 millionth visitor" Seattle Post-Intelligencer Retrieved May 30, 2007 
  26. ^ "Cleaning Equipment for Home & Industrial Applications from Karcher - Karcher" 
  27. ^ "Spit and polish for a Seattle icon" KOMO News May 15, 2008 Retrieved July 21, 2016 
  28. ^ Trujillo, Joshua April 17, 2012 "Space Needle returns to its original color" Seattle Post-Intelligencer Retrieved August 19, 2015 
  29. ^ "Space Needle painted crimson and gray" Washington State University November 15, 2005 Retrieved August 19, 2015 
  30. ^ "CNN - Parachutist's jump from Space Needle goes awry - Nov 21, 1996" 
  31. ^ "Fun Facts - Space Needle" 
  32. ^ a b c "Woman falls to death from Space Needle" The Sunday Oregonian Portland, Oregon Associated Press May 26, 1974 p 49 
  33. ^ "Seattle Space Needle was site of premature birth" The Oregonian Portland, Oregon Associated Press June 12, 1974 p 92 
  34. ^ "Young Woman Third to Leap From Needle" Nashua Telegraph Nashua, New Hampshire United Press International July 6, 1978 p 2 Retrieved August 27, 2016 
  35. ^ "KPLUorg" 
  36. ^ McFadden, Kay 2004-05-13 "Condo by condo, Seattle has become a lot like 'Frasier'" The Seattle Times Retrieved 2010-01-23 
  37. ^ Fuchs, Cynthia "Dark Angel" PopMatters Retrieved June 23, 2015 
  38. ^ "Lego Architecture: Seattle Space Needle" Lego Architecture 
  39. ^ "Space needle during Christmas" Flickr 
  • Lost and Found Films: Building the Space Needle, 1961

Further readingedit

  • Knute Berger 2012 Space Needle: The Spirit of Seattle Documentary Media ISBN 978-1933245263 

External linksedit

  • Official website
  • Century 21 Exposition design plans for the 1962 Seattle World's Fair — Architecture of the Pacific Northwest Database from the University of Washington
  • Entry at site of Howard S Wright Construction Co

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