Gander at the Googie goodness of Seattle's Space Needle

The symbol of the city, and an iconic example of Googie architecture, here's how Seattle's Space Needle looks from every angle.

Geoffrey Morrison
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The Space Needle

I started my first visit at dusk, hoping for some great night photos. After you get your ticket you pass displays showing the history of the tower.

For more about the Space Needle and this tour, check out A tower for the Space Age: Exploring Seattle's incredible Space Needle

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Elevator line

There are three elevators to get you to the top, though normally only two are used for passengers. 

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Headed up

The view from the southwest-facing elevator, out over Puget Sound. In the foreground is the Pacific Science Center.

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Main deck

Though the roundness reminds of the Tokyo Skytree that I visited a few years ago, the Space Needle is much smaller.

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Hints of height

I sense a good view is imminent...

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Walls of glass

The observation deck, 520 feet/160 meters above the ground, has walls of glass, and offers quite a view.

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Clouds hid the moment of sunset, but the view is still spectacular.

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City center

The view south of downtown Seattle.

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Hey down there

Leaning against the glass offers views for those not afraid of heights. Though I suppose if you were afraid of heights, you'd never have gone up in the first place.

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Looking north, with Lake Union on the right.

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The cool curvy building in the middle is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters.

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The wood-lined Oculus stairs bring you down to the lower level.

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There's a sort of midlevel between the two main floors, which lets you see some more of the steel structure of the building.

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Though still under construction during my late-winter visit, the lower level floor will eventually rotate.

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I'll be headed back to the Needle tomorrow for some daylight views, but in the mean time, I couldn't resist a trip on Seattle's monorail. It only has one stop, the end of the line about a mile from the Space Needle. Its design is delightfully Mid-century modern

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To the future

Both the Space Needle and monorail were built for the World's Fair. Like Disney World's monorail, it was constructed by Alweg.

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Monorail x 2

OK, I took the monorail the next day too. It threads its way between buildings, and even through the Museum of Pop Culture that's next to the Space Needle.

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Tall tower

For most of the '60s it was the tallest building on the West Coast, standing 605 feet, or 184 meters.

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100ft/30m up from the base are private event rooms you can rent for weddings, corporate dinners and so on. I didn't have a chance to explore them, but the Needle's website has a VR tour.

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The outer ring "halo" has a diameter of 138 feet, or 42 meters.

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The Space Needle is a prime example of the Googie style of architecture, a subset of Mid-century modern most succinctly described as "The Jetsons."  

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Over 63 million people have visited the tower since its opening.

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Legs of steel

The legs are made from steel, unlike the base of many other tall buildings, which are mostly concrete

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Gift shop

People love their merch. During both of my visits the gift shop was packed.

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Headed back up

This time the view from the elevator is northwest.

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Millions of photos

You can submit your photo to be posted to this live wall on the observation level.

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Hello, Seattle.

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Glass gaps

There are gaps between the glass panels a bit wider than your hand. An employee makes the rounds to make sure people aren't putting selfie sticks through them. Don't ask me how I know.

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Though known for rain, Seattle gets less overall precipitation than New York City. However, it has far more days of cloud cover and light rain.

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Lean back

Benches placed around the observation deck allow you to lean back against the glass, or you can stand on them and get a better view over the halo.

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Like all modern tall buildings, the tower is built to move with wind (and earthquakes). For every 10 mph (16 km/h) of wind it sways 1 inch (2.5 cm).

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Floors of glass

At the bottom of the "Oculus" stairs the floor is glass, offering a vertigo-inducing look down.

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Soon to rotate

Most of the floor on this level is also glass, and by the time you read this, will be the only glass floor in the world that rotates. They're calling it the Loupe.

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Restaurant to be

During my visit they were finishing up the renovation of the SkyCity restaurant, which will also rotate. This restaurant was featured in an episode of Scooby-Doo. I'm not kidding. 

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View of the view

Head north, and up, to Kerry Park, for a great view of the tower.

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Concert venue

In 2013, to celebrate legendary local record label Sub Pop's 25 anniversary, Mudhoney performed from the top of the Space Needle. Arguably the best view for any stage on Earth.

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Night Needle

Definitely worth heading up to the park for a the view at night.

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Despite the perspective, the Space Needle isn't the tallest building in Seattle. That honor currently goes to the Columbia Center, which is about 330ft/100m taller.

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Puget Sound

Here you can see the Space Needle on one side, and the Columbia Center on the other. I snapped this while crossing Puget Sound to check out the destroyer USS Turner Joy, which was a fantastic tour.

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Space Age

The Space Needle deserves its iconic status, and its status as one of the most visited attractions on the West Coast. A Space Age beauty. 

For more info about this visit, check out A tower for the Space Age: Exploring Seattle's incredible Space Needle.

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