Space Needle
The Space Needle is a tower in Seattle, Washington, and is a major landmark of the Pacific Northwest region of the United States and a symbol of Seattle. Located at the Seattle Center, it was built for the 1962 World's Fair, during which time nearly 20,000 people a day used the elevators, with over 2.3 million visitors in all for the World Fair. The Space Needle is 605 feet (184 m) high at its highest point and 138 feet (42 m) wide at its widest point and weighs 9,550 tons. When it was completed it was the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River. It is built to withstand winds of up to 200 mph (320 km/h) and earthquakes of up to 9.1 magnitude. (which would protect the structure against an earthquake as powerful as the 1700 Cascadia earthquake). The tower also has 25 lightning rods on its roof to prevent lightning damage. The Space Needle features an observation deck at 520 feet (160 m), and a gift shop with the rotating SkyCity restaurant at 500 feet (152 m). From the top of the Needle, one can see not only the Downtown Seattle skyline, but also the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, Elliott Bay and surrounding islands. Photographs of the Seattle skyline often show the Space Needle in a prominent position, even appearing to tower above the rest of the city's skyscrapers, as well as Mount Rainier in the background. This occurs because the tower, which is equivalent in height to a 60-story building, stands roughly four-fifths of a mile (1.3 km) northwest of most downtown skyscrapers. Visitors can reach the top of the Space Needle via elevators that travel at 10 mph (16 km/h). The trip takes 43 seconds, and some tourists wait in hour-long lines in order to ascend to the top of the tower. On windy days, the elevators are slowed down to a speed of 5 mph. The Space Needle was designated a historic landmark on April 19, 1999 by the City's Landmarks Preservation Board.

The architecture of the Space Needle is the result of a compromise between designs. The two leading ideas for the World Fair involved businessman Edward 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 deck). Victor Steinbrueck introduced the hourglass profile of the tower. The Space Needle was built to withstand severe earthquakes by doubling the building code of 1962. But an earthquake registering 6.8 on the Richter Scale jolted the Needle enough in 2001 for water to slosh out of the toilets in the restrooms. The Space Needle can escape 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 feet (152 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 minutes. In 1993, the elevators were replaced with new computerized versions. The new elevators descend at a rate of 10 mph. On December 31, 1999 ( New Year's Eve), a powerful beam of light was unveiled for the first time. Called the Legacy Light or Skybeam, it features lamps that total 85 million candle power 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 creates. 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 twelve days in a row from September 11, 2001 to September 22, 2001 in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks. The same 1962 World's Fair original poster showed a grand spiral entryway leading to the elevator, but this, too, was omitted from the final building plans. The stairway was recently realized with a new two-story Pavilion Level enclosed in glass. Some feel that this level's design resembles that of a nautilus. There are 832 steps in all from the basement to the restaurants on the observation deck. At approximately 605 feet (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 feet (302 m). Unlike many other similar structures, such as the CN Tower in Toronto, the Space Needle is not used for broadcasting purposes.

Edward E. 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 make the restaurant featured in the plans revolve, in the same manner as a tower he had previously designed for the Ala Moana shopping center in Honolulu. The proposed Space Needle had no land on which to be built. Since it was not financed by the city, land had to be purchased that was within the fairgrounds. It was thought that there would be no land available to build a tower and the search for one was nearly dead when in 1961, a 120 foot by 120 foot (37-by-37 m) plot that contained switching equipment for the fire and police alarm systems was discovered and sold to the investors 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 Corporation. The earthquake stability of the Space Needle was ensured when a hole was dug 30 feet (10 m) deep and 120 feet (40 m) across, and 467 concrete trucks took one full day to fill it. The foundation weighs almost 6,000 tons and there are 250 tons of reinforcing steel in the base. With this concrete base weighing the same as the above-ground structure, the Needle's center of gravity is just 5 feet (1.5 m) above ground level. The structure is bolted to the foundation with 72 bolts, each one 30 feet (10 m) long. With time an issue, the construction team worked around the clock. The top dome 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 1 hp (0.8 kW), later replaced with a 1.5 hp (1.1 kW) 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 $4.5 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. During the World's Fair, a carillon was installed in the Space Needle, and played several times a day. The carillon recreated the tones of a total of 538 bells, and was built by the Schulmerich Company under the name "Carillon Americana". 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 stentors of the carillon were located in the bottom part of the disc, and were audible over the entire fairgrounds, and beyond. 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 had since become a fixture of Seattle, becoming for a time the mascot of the Seattle SuperSonics who played in nearby Key Arena (originally The Coliseum), before departing for Oklahoma City. In 1982, the SkyLine level was added at a height of 100 ft (33 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 nearly five times the original price ($21 million). Renovations between 1999 and 2000 included the SkyCity restaurant, SpaceBase retail store, Skybeam installation, Observation Deck overhaul, lighting additions and repainting. In 2000, celebrations and a fireworks show were canceled due to perceived terror threats against the structure. On May 19, 2007, the Space Needle welcomed its 45 millionth visitor. The guest, Greg Novoa of San Francisco, received a free trip for two to Paris which included a VIP dinner at the Eiffel Tower. Every year on New Year's Eve, the Space Needle celebrates with a fireworks show at midnight that is synchronized to music. The 2007/2008 show stopped, restarted, then stopped again with the rest of the pyrotechnics needing to be detonated by hand. The pyrotechnics crew blamed the problem on a corrupted file in the customized software they use to control the timed detonations. 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 Kärcher with water at a pressure of 3,000 psi and a temperature of 194 degrees Fahrenheit. No detergents were used in consideration of the Seattle Center and the EMP building.

Three people have committed suicide by leaping from the Space Needle's observation platform. Each of these events occurred in the 1970s. Two of them jumped in 1974, before a "safety grid" was installed around the platform. The third suicide took place four years later, in 1978. Others have occasionally made it through the safety grid, but police negotiators have coaxed them to safety. Twice as many jumpers have used parachutes to break their fall as part of a sport known as BASE jumping. Six parachutists have leaped from the tower since its opening, but this activity is illegal without prior consent. Four jumpers were part of various promotions, and the other two were arrested.

Cultural references

  • The Space Needle was used as a location for the films It Happened at the World's Fair (1963) with Elvis Presley, The Parallax View (1974) with Warren Beatty, and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999) with Mike Myers. It was also briefly portrayed in The Simpsons Movie as their train arrives in Seattle. It made a brief appearance in the 2009 film Love Happens , 1993's Another Stakeout and also in '93's Sleepless in Seattle . It also appeared in The Cutting Edge.

  • The Space Needle is featured during the opening pan through downtown Seattle in NBC's " America's got talent" during the Seattle, WA. auditions.
  • The Space Needle features prominently in the opening credits, and occasionally during the program, of the TV sitcom Frasier . It was also prominently featured in the television shows Dark Angel , Grey's Anatomy , and iCarly .
  • In 1997, the television show Frasier, which is set in Seattle, filmed a public rally at the base of the Space Needle. The rally was in observance of "Frasier Crane Day", marking the fictional radio talk-show host's 1,000th broadcast; the scene was part of the series' milestone 100th episode, and the day of filming was officially declared "Frasier Day" by Seattle mayor Norm Rice.
  • Shown in almost every episode of Frasier, the view from the high-rise condo's porch includes the base of the Space Needle against a backdrop of the tower blocks of downtown Seattle. Famous among Seattle's real-estate professionals, the "Frasier view" is a composite image, and in reality there are no apartment blocks of the appropriate height on the opposite side of the Space Needle from Downtown.
  • The cartoon Scooby-Doo had one episode set in Seattle and the characters ate in the Space Needle restaurant.
  • The NBC television miniseries 10.5 depicts the Space Needle's destruction as a result of a cataclysmic earthquake. To make this scenario more plausible the show depicted the tower as having been constructed of concrete rather than steel.
  • The animated comedy The Simpsons has shown or mentioned the Space Needle five times. The first in " Bart Sells His Soul" when Lisa and Bart are watching an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon call Skinless in Seattle on parody of Sleepless in Seattle . In " Stop or My Dog Will Shoot" the family is in a corn maze and Homer throws Lisa in the air to find an exit but all she says she sees is The Seattle Space Needle. In The Simpsons Movie, Marge, Maggie, Bart, and Lisa arrive in Seattle on a train from Alaska and the Space Needle can be seen in the background. In " Father Knows Worst" Homer wants Bart to build something for class and while choosing a building he looks at a poster of the Space Needle that says Let Your Imagination soar with Reading Homer then says "It's got to be something from earth", Homer thinking the Space Needle was from a different planet. In " That 90's Show," Homer's band, Sadgasm, plays a concert and before it starts, the Space Needle is shown, showing that they are in Seattle. This makes a reference to the band that Sadgasm was made to parody, Nirvana, which originated in Seattle.
  • On April 1, 1989, Seattle area TV program Almost Live! set up a phony broadcast room and dressed actors as TV anchors to pull an April Fool's joke with a mock newscast that reported that the Space Needle had collapsed in a windstorm. The prank featured footage of downed parts of the needle and hysterical eyewitness accounts (also by actors). Local hospitals prepared for the inevitable onslaught of injured patients. One man, whose daughter worked at the Space Needle, in a panic, drove from Spokane to see if his child was safe. The end of the skit gave the prank away, but many still believed the broadcast. TV station KING 5, the producer and broadcaster of Almost Live!, later apologized.
  • Animated series SpongeBob SquarePants , there is a building called the Sea Needle, a parody of the Space Needle.
  • A presidential candidate is assassinated in the top lounge of the Space Needle in the 1974 movie The Parallax View .
  • The History Channel speculative special Life After People shows an un-maintained Space Needle falling due to corrosion.
  • Chinese TV series The Legend of Bruce Lee frequently shows the tower in the background. There is also one scene when Bruce and Linda go up the tower.
  • The Phone (on MTV) had a boy crawl around the outer edge of the space needle looking for 'clues' for the game show. Then, a girl had to climb up the steepest part of the tower, the actual needle, and retrieve more clues. Both contestants were strapped with cords if they were to fall.

  • In the novel Invisible Monsters by Washington-born author Chuck Palahniuk, the characters visit the top of the Space Needle, and write secrets on pieces of paper, which they throw off the deck.

Video games
  • The Space Needle appears in the video game Killer 7 where the main antagonist Kun Lan catches a bullet and is "carried" to it.
  • In the video game Deus Ex: Invisible War , the Space Needle makes a brief appearance in one of the cutscenes. Also, a character gives the player a mission to rape a lawyer, and threatens to throw the player from the Space Needle if he/she repeats anything he/she has been told.
  • The Space Needle appears representing Seattle in Pilotwings 64 , at the northwestern corner of the Little States island.
  • The Space Needle can be captured for an enhanced view of the surrounding area in the Seattle Mission of Command & Conquer: Yuri's Revenge .
  • The Space Needle can also be spotted when on "tour" in Rock Band . At one point in the tour, the player is allowed to travel to Seattle, which in part is represented by the needle.
  • In Battle for Bikini Bottom , one of the levels requires the player to bungee jump off the 'Sea Needle' to destroy tikis after robots have knocked out nearly the whole floor.
  • In Gran Turismo 4 , the Space Needle is seen in the distance briefly during one of the turns in Seattle Circuit Reverse.
  • While not a video game, the Space Needle features prominently in the tabletop roleplaying game Shadowrun . Seattle is the core setting for the western version of the game and the Needle appears in many sourcebooks and in some adventures such as Survival of the Fittest .
  • The Space Needle is present in the last level of World in Conflict . During the final Soviet counteroffensive in the city the player is informed that "we will make our stand at the Space Needle." The tower is also visible is the backgrounds of several other levels, is ground zero for the nuclear strike on failing the last mission and is a destructible building.
Many parts of Seattle, including the Space Needle, are hidden throughout Halo 3, because Microsoft is near there.

  • Australian rock band The Church included a song called "Space Needle" on their 2006 album Uninvited, Like the Clouds .

  • The Major League Soccer team Seattle Sounders FC uses an image of the Space Needle as part of the team's logo.
  • A former National Basketball Association team, the Seattle SuperSonics, used logos featuring the Space Needle.
  • The Seattle Storm, a Women's National Basketball Association team located in Seattle, uses the Space Needle in their logo.

  • The Lego Group has created an 8.7 inch model of The Space Needle out of gray Lego bricks as part of their LEGO Architecture Landmark series of real-world construction models.

  • The Space Needle has been a featured Santa Cam location since the start of the 2002 NORAD Tracks Santa tracking season.

The Space Needle during a snowstorm. A panoramic view of the Space Needle, Downtown Seattle, Qwest Field, and Safeco Field. Panoramic view of Seattle from the observation deck. The Space Needle at night. View from the base of the tower.


3 photos

Building Activity

  • OpenBuildings
    OpenBuildings updated 9 media and uploaded a media file
    eqxn spaceneedle
    about 6 years ago via
  • Gabriele Parrotta
    Gabriele Parrotta updated 6 media
    about 6 years ago via
  • Gabriele Parrotta
    Gabriele Parrotta uploaded a media file
    loep 24082011 08.22.30
    about 6 years ago via Mobile
  • removed a media
    about 6 years ago via