The Space Needle, an internationally recognized symbol of Seattle was built in 1962 as part of the Seattle World’s fair. The original construction never included an entry experience, although an early design did suggest the idea of a spiral ramp leading to the elevator. The mid height “Skyline” level was added in 1982.
The client approached Callison Architecture to design an entry level structure. The goal was to better accommodate the millions of visitors each year who often are forced to wait in long lines for a ride to the top. At the same time, the retail store was being moved to the ground level to provide more space on the Observation deck.
The client was not completely satisfied with the direction of the design and solicited nationally for entertainment designers to weigh in on the ground level design. Craig Hardman led the NBBJ response together with a design team assembled for the project.
Our proposal was to create a spiral ramp that would accomplish several objectives: 1) provide a weather protected place for a continuous queue; 2) provide a chance to sequence the entry experience so that visitors would go to the top first and then exit through the store on the way out at the bottom; and 3) provide a sequential platform for artifacts and educational games that would entertain and educate people while waiting in line. The nautilus form complimented the iconic Space Needle form as it wrapped around the legs and recalled the ramp originally depicted in early promotional drawings for the World’s Fair.
The client enthusiastically endorsed our proposal and we were hired to work with Callison to finalize the design. The project was finally built without the educational/exhibit components, but otherwise has succeeded to handle the crowds and help funnel people in the desired sequence.