Space Needle

Space Needle

The Space Needle design was a comprise between two architects, Edward E. Carlson and John Graham, Jr. Carlson’s contribution to the Space Needle can be seen in the sloping base of the structure, while Graham’s contribution included the flying saucer inspired top of the Space Needle. Victor Steinbrueck designed the Space Needle’s hour glass shaped body. The project almost didn’t begin as the planners couldn’t find land to begin building. The finally found and purchased the 120′ by 120′ plot of land for $75,000. Upon completion, the entire project cost $4.5 million to complete. During the 1962 World’s Fair, the Space Needle carried almost 20,000 people a day to the observation tower. Renovations in 1999 and 2000, which included the SkyCity restaurant, SkyBase Retail Shops, Observation Deck overhaul, Legacy Light installation, maintenance and repainting cost more than $21 million, almost 5 times the original cost.


Originally, the Space Needle had two restaurants, the Eye of the Needle and Emerald Suites. During renovations in 2000, the restaurants were closed to main public. The Space Needle was originally designed and built for the 1962 World’s Fair. Visitors were able to view the World’s Fair from the Space Needle’s 360 degree observation deck. The Space Needle incorporates an hour glass shaped body with a flying saucer inspired top. It stood as the tallest structure west of the Mississippi for decades, but has since been eclipsed by other buildings.


Construction on the Space Needle started on April 17th, 1961 and concluded on December 8th, 1961. Crews worked around the clock to complete the Space Needle before the World’s Fair opened in 1962. The last elevator arrived the day before the 1962 World’s Fair opened. The ke way for one larger restaurant called SkyCity. It sits 500 feet above the ground and rotates 360 degrees in 47 minutes giving patrons a panoramic view of beautiful Seattle. Borrowed from railroad technology, the entire track and wheel system is turned using a 1 1/2hp motor. The original motor was a 1hp motor. The new motor was an upgrade from the original 1hp motor. In 2009, the Washington Wine Comission named SkyCity the restaurant of the year. It also received “Best Restaurant with a View” award by AOL in 2006 and 2007.


The Space Needle stands 605 feet tall, which is measured to the top of the aircraft warning beacon. The Observation Deck is 520 feet from the ground and SkyCity is 500 feet up in the air. The base of the Space Needle is 30 feet deep and 120 feet across and it took the construction company 12 hours using 467 cement trucks to pour the foundation. It weighs 5,850 tons including cement and steel to reinforce the foundation. The actual Space Needle Structure is securely attached to the heavy foundation by 72 massive bolts, each 30 feet in lenth. The Space Needle was built to withstand 200mph winds as it sways a mere 1 inch for every 10mph of wind. A computer makes adjustments to slow down the elevators to 5mph when winds speeds exceed 35mph. The massive structure has an extremely low center of gravity sitting just 5 feet above the ground. The Space Needle has 25 lightning rods attached to it, which prevents lightning damage. In addition to handling wind and lightning, the Space Needle was also constructed to able to withstand earthquakes up to 9.1 magnitude.

A light source has always sat on top of the Space Needle. Its most recent and controversial light source called the “Legacy Light” first illuminated Seattle’s sky on New Year’s Eve in 1999. The “Legacy Light” is powered by 85 million candela and shines straight into the sky. The light creates controvery because of complaints of the light pollution it creates in the night sky. Originally, the light was to be turned on 75 times through out the year. Realistically, the light shines around a couple of dozen times. After 9/11, the light illuminated the night skyfor twelve nights straight.


The current elevators were installed in 1993, replacing the original elevators. Each elevator weighs 14,000 pounds and has a capacity of 4,500 pounds. A counter-weight attached to the elevator weighs almost 20,000 pounds, 40% more than the elevator. One of the cables attached to the elevator is strong enough to hold the pull the elevator from top to bottom, but for security measures, each elevator has 7 cables attached to it. Fully loaded, each elevator can carry 25 people at a top speed of 10mph. At top speed, the entire trip from the bottom of the Space Needle to the top takes 43 seconds. During higher wind speeds, the elevators slow to 5mph. The elevators were closed when wind speeds exceeded 90 mph. Two of the three elevators are used to carry passengers and travel at top speed. The third, which travels at 5mph, is typically reserved for freight travel, but has been used to carry passengers.

quick facts & figures

Construction Start: April 17th, 1961

Construction Ended: December 8th, 1961

Observation Deck: Rotates 360 degrees

Legacy Light: 85 million candela

Daily Vehicles: 123,000

Bridge Type: Suspension

Designers: Edward E. Carlson & John Graham, Jr

Height: 605′

Base Weighs: 5,850 tons

Base Depth: 30′

Base Width: 120′

Total Bolts in Base: 72

Bolt Length: 30″

Observation Deck Height: 520′

SkyCity Height: 500′

Earthquake resistance: 9.1 magnitude

Total Cost: $4.5 Million