In 41 seconds you take a windowed capsule from ground level to the top of the Seattle Space Needle where you can step outside and walk the perimeter while sipping a double-tall as you take in the view of the scenic wonderland surrounding Seattle. Mount Rainier to the south, the Cascade Mountains to the east, the Olympic Mountains to the west, Puget Sound stretching before you as far as the eye can see, the Mount Baker volcano visible to the north, float planes landing on Lake Union just east of the Needle, ferries and cruise ships on Elliot Bay---game day you can hear the cheers coming from Safeco Field after a Mariner home run or from Qwest Field after a Seahawk touchdown. Below you is the fabulous Experience Music Project with the Monorail snaking through en route to Westlake Center in downtown Seattle.
The Space Needle looks down on the Pacific Science Center and all the other attractions at the Seattle Center, the site of the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, the event for which the Space Needle was built to celebrate the coming new century and Seattle's position as an aerospace leader. The Space Needle would serve as a 605 foot punctuation mark in the Pacific Northwest sky, announcing Seattle's arrival as a major city, which in the decades to come would grow beyond anything anyone imagined in 1962, to become known as one of the most livable cities in the world.
The Space Needle has come to be the most recognized symbol of both Seattle and of the Pacific Northwest. The only landmark that rivals the Space Needle as a symbol of the Pacific Northwest is a work of Mother Nature, Mount Rainier. At the time of the Space Needle's conception Seattle was still a fairly small city, but one that was growing rapidly. The artist who designed it, Edward E. Carlson, was inspired by a similar tower that had just been built in Stuttgart Germany. He thought that civilization's future lay in space exploration and he wanted to build a tribute to that hope.
In many ways the building of the Space Needle was a lot easier than most people expected. Special attention was paid to the observation deck and the revolving restaurant. In a marvel of engineering, the restaurant was so well balanced on the top of the structure that all it takes is a 1 horsepower motor to rotate it, making a complete 360 degree journey once an hour. The last pieces of the Space Needle to be installed were the elevators. At the time, these where some of the fastest elevators in the world.
The Space Needle was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River at the time it was built. The Space Needle is built to withstand winds of up to 200 mph and earthquakes up to 9.1 magnitude, and has 25 lightning rods on the roof to withstand lightning strikes. The earthquake stability of the Space Needle was ensured when a hole was dug 30 feet deep and 120 feet across. An army of cement trucks (467 in all) took one full day to fill it up, and this was appropriately the largest concrete pour to ever take place in the western United States. With this concrete base weighing the same as the above-ground structure, the Needle's center of gravity was at ground level.
It is said the safest place to be during a Pacific Northwest earthquake is to be at the top of the Space Needle. However, those who have experienced the swaying of the Space Needle during a quake might beg to differ.