Friday, October 2, 2009

Seattle's Space Needle: A Nod to the Future from the Past

Like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Big Ben in London and the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor, Seattle's Space Needle serves as the city's definitive landmark. Seen in numerous location shots, movies and t.v. shows, this space age structure pointed the way to a futuristic building style that has since been used by such buildings as Las Vegas' Stratophere casino.

History of the Needle

The Space Needle was the dream of the Seattle World Fair's chairman, Edward Carlson and architect John Graham who had recently finished a commission to design a structure that would house a restaurant for the 1962 Seattle World's Fair. The theme of the fair was life in the 21st Century. The Needle served as the most visible example of the fair's theme. It was Graham's idea to create the saucer-shaped top structure. He also envisioned the Needle's revolving restaurant based on a similar design he had used for a restaurant in the Ala Moana Mall in Honolulu, Hawaii

The Needle stands approximately 605 feet (184 m) and 138 feet (42 m) wide. Roughly equivalent to a 60 story building, it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi when first built. It was designed to withstand earthquakes below 9 on the Richter Scale, as well as, category 5 hurricane winds. In addition, the Needle has 25 lighting rods to protect it from lightning strikes.

What's in the Needle?

Although it may look like the top of the Space Needle would serve only a single function, there are acually several components to the structure. There is an observation deck at the top level of the structure, a gift shop and the rotating Sky City restaurant featuring regional Pacific Northwest cuisine on the next level. All of which offers a 360 degree view of Seattle and its iconic surroundings.

From the very top of the saucer the newest addition to the Needle, the Legacy Light (aka the Skybeam) an 85 million candle power beam of light, is aimed straight up towards the sky. It's illuminated several times a year to commerate national holidays and special events in Seattle.

Visitors can reach the top of the Space Needle in 43 seconds on elevators that travel 10 mph .

Travel Routes to Seattle

If not flying, Seattle can be reached from the south via I-5 which runs from the U.S./Mexico border at San Diego north into Canada. It can be reached from the east via either I-80 or I-90.

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