[This is part of our ongoing New Year’s Resolution to reacquaint ourselves with Seattle’s great icons. Download the calendar and join the conversation! Check out October’s landmark, “A Sound Garden”, and come back in December for a look at Calder’s, “Eagle”.]
The Space Cage. The 400-Day Wonder. Both are pseudonyms for the iconic Space Needle; a 605 foot tall structure that defines the Seattle skyline and welcomes over 1 million visitors every year to enjoy views of the Cascades, Olympics, Puget Sound, Mt. Rainier, and the city itself. The Space Needle is not only THE official Seattle landmark, it is the number 1 tourist attraction in Washington State and remains a symbol of Seattle’s forward-thinking community more than 50 years after it’s initial construction.
The Space Needle was built as an architectural centerpiece for the 1962 World’s Fair, appropriately themed Century 21 in an era dominated by headlines of the Space Race. Looking back, 1962 was a pivotal year for Seattle and its spirit of ingenuity continues to inspire. When it was first constructed, the Needle was the tallest building west of the Mississippi river and truly was an innovation that set a new standard for World’s Fair legacy structures. It also changed the international opinion of Seattle from a blue-collar port city to a modern metropolis.
It’s form inspired by the world’s first telecommunications tower in Stuttgart, Germany, the sinuous Space Needle is built to withstand an earthquake magnitude of over a 9 on the Richter scale and winds up to 200mph, in other words, it can withstand a category 5 hurricane. That is twice the building code requirements in 1962, a testament to the future-oriented attitude of the original design team.
In keeping with the Century 21 theme, the Needle was painted Astronaut White for the tower, Orbital Olive for the core, Re-Entry Red for the halo, and Galaxy Gold for the roof. Galaxy Gold made a 6-month reappearance on the roof of the Needle in honor of the 50th anniversary in 2012. During the anniversary, the Seattle Center’s Next Fifty Festival engaged Seattleites in discussions about our near future: sustainable resources, science and technology.
Often referred to as the “logo” of Seattle, a vital function of the Space Needle is that of cultural center. Located just outside of the downtown retail core, and adjacent to the emerging biotechnology hub in South Lake Union, our Space Needle presides over the Seattle Center’s attractions including the Science Fiction Museum and Pacific Science Center. It hosts the city’s annual New Year fireworks display, and even the occasional alien. It’s a tangible expression of our community’s progressive style and eccentric charm.
Photo: Chewbacca7, via flickr