The Seattle Space Needle is an internationally famous landmark that was built for the 1962 World's Fair. While it is no longer the tallest landmark in the West or even the city, it still stands as a recognizable symbol.
The original design for the Space Needle was a combination of two designs. One was by Edward Carlson, the chairman of the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle, and was visualized as a balloon tethered to the ground. The second design, by recognized architect John Graham, was for a revolving restaurant, inspired by a UFO concept. These two ideas were combined into the building in its present state, featuring a flared spire with a disc at the top.
The original World's Fair poster featured a beam of light rising from the top of the Space Needle. This is referred to as the Skybeam, and it was finally realized in time for New Year's Eve, 1999.
At the time of the construction, by Howard S. Wright Construction Company, the Space Needle was the tallest building west of the Mississippi. The Space Needle stands 605 feet tall. This took the title from Seattle's Smith Tower. The ground breaking ceremony was on April 17, 1961, and the building was completed in December, 1961, four months before the World's Fair. The building was built to withstand earthquakes of 9.5 on the Richter scale and Hurricane force 5 winds, which was very forward thinking at the time. This was achieved by doubling the required city specifications. The Space Needle was built for only $4.5 million dollars.
An earthquake of 6.5 rocked the Space Needle in 1965, just three years after its completion. While it did no structural damage, it was noted to cause the water in the toilets to slosh out. The tower sways one inch for every 10 miles an hour of wind it is exposed to. Only three people have committed suicide by leaping off the Space Needle. Since the erecting of safety mesh around the observation deck, six more attempts have been made, but they have all been talked down by police negotiators. The Space Needle houses what was the second rotating restaurant in the world. On a very hot day, the steel in the Space Needle can expand by as much of an inch. The LEGO corporation has built and sold a replica Space Needle.
The World's Fair
The Seattle Space Needle was built to be the center of attention at the 1962 World's Fair. This fair represented the future, and the Space Needle was a call to embracing that future. The title of the Fair was the 21st Century Exposition. The Seattle Monorail, traveling from the Space Needle to downtown Seattle, was also built for the World's Fair, as a futuristic transportation method. This was the first World's Fair not held at a fair ground, and is held to be partially responsible for revitalizing Seattle's economy. The Elvis film "It Happened at the World's Fair" was set against the 1962 Fair.
The Seattle Center
The Seattle Center has remained a tourist attraction and a local hot spot since the World's Fair. It houses several theatres, a food court, the Seattle Science Center, two Imax screens, several exhibition halls, and a large fountain and park area, which is the home to many local celebrations, including Seattle's Folk Life Festival, the Bumbershoot music and culture festival, and the Bite of Seattle.
The Present Day
Today the Space Needle marks the entry of the East End of the Seattle Center. It stands over a fun fair that remains from the World's Fair, as well as the Seattle Center house, which holds the Seattle Children's Museum as well as a food court and public facilities. The Seattle Science Center has remained another attraction, standing beneath trademark white arches, and is a regular destination for school field trips. The newest addition to the Seattle Center is the Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Hall of Fame Museum. Both hold rotating exhibits and feature memorabilia from throughout the history of entertainment. The EMP/SFM has led the way for museums of its kind with interactive exhibits and multimedia displays. The World's Fair monorail still runs daily from the foot of the Space Needle to the Westlake Shopping Center in downtown Seattle.