The Space Needle is an observation tower located in Seattle, Washington, built for the 1962 World’s Fair. The tower is a major tourist attraction and in 1999 was registered as an official Seattle landmark.
The artist Edward E. Carlson came up with a concept design for a dominant central structure for the World’s Fair, inspired by the Stuttgart Tower. One of his early sketches resembled a tethered balloon, while another was a balloon-shaped house on a central column anchored by cables. In the end, the futuristic design was a compromise between Carlson and the architect John Graham who turned the balloon design into a flying saucer. Victor Steinbrueck was responsible for introducing the tower’s hourglass profile.
The tower is 184 m (605 ft) high, 42 m (138 ft) wide, and weighs 9,550 tons. It includes the SkyCity revolving restaurant at 150 m (500 ft), and an observation deck at 160 m (520 ft).
The Howard S. Wright Construction Company managed the construction process which was completed in less than a year at a cost of $4.5 million.
An underground foundation was poured 9.1 m (30 ft) deep by 37 m (120 ft) wide. It took 467 concrete trucks one full day to complete what was, at the time, the largest continuous concrete pour attempted in America.
The tower was built to withstand wind speeds of 200 mph (322 km/h), double the required standards of the time. For every 10 mph of wind the tower sways approximately 1 inch.
The five-level ‘flying saucer’ deck was balanced so that the restaurant is capable of revolving on a track-and-wheel system that weighs roughly 125 tons and only requires a 1.5 horsepower motor to operate.
The tower was complete in just 400 days, and officially opened on the first day of the World’s Fair in April 1962, instantly becoming an icon of the city of Seattle.
In 2000, the Space Needle underwent a $20 million renovation project. This involved a complete redevelopment of the restaurant and top levels, with the addition of exterior lighting and painting. It was also given an extensive clean, for the first time since it was originally completed.
Part of the redevelopment works was to include a spiral staircase leading to the elevator that was part of the original plans but never built. The Legacy Light, or Skybeam, was also unveiled – a powerful beam of light totaling 85 million candela that is shone skyward to mark national holidays and other notable occasions.
The Space Needle has made numerous appearances in films and TV, including ‘Sleepless in Seattle’, ‘The Parallax View’, ‘Frasier’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. It also served as inspiration for the futuristic condominium that was the home of the Jetsens in the cartoon series of the same name.
In June 2017, a privately-funded preservation and renovation project was announced, called Century Project.
The renovation is intended to update the Space Needle’s physical systems and improve the visitor experience by dramatically enhancing the view.
Floor-to-ceiling glass on the interior and exterior of the Observation Deck will further open up the 360° views of the Puget Sound area. The new exterior glass barriers will match the flow of the building, dipping outward slightly and offering a seamless sight line. New glass structural barriers will replace the wire safety 'caging' on the outer open-air deck. A first-of-its-kind rotating glass floor will be added to the restaurant level, unveiling downward views of the structure never seen before.
Most of the work will be carried out from an elevated work platform just below the restaurant level, allowing most of the structure to remain open to the public during construction and avoiding the need for scaffolding.
Work will begin on site in September 2017, with the initial phase completed by June 2018.
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 External references
- Space Needle - Official site
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