Seattle’s Space Needle to Undergo $100 Million Minimalist Renovation by Olson Kundig


Outer Open-Air Observation Deck (after). Image © Olson Kundig

Outer Open-Air Observation Deck (after). Image © Olson Kundig

One of the world’s most recognizable landmarks, the Seattle Space Needle, is set to undergo a $100 million renovation project focused on the structure’s preservation and the enhancement of the visitor experience by opening up spaces to dramatically improved views.

 Designed by Olson Kundig with interiors by Tihany Design, the scheme will intensify the Observation Deck experience through the addition of floor-to-ceiling glass on both the interior and exterior spaces, creating unobstructed 360 degree views of the Puget Sound and Seattle skyline . The renovation will also reimagine the Needle’s restaurant level by featuring a “first-of-its-kind” rotating glass floor to offer never-before-seen downward views of the structure.


Space Needle in the Seattle Skyline (after). Image © Olson Kundig

Space Needle in the Seattle Skyline (after). Image © Olson Kundig

Cross-Section of the Tophouse to show Observation Deck Renovations. Image © Olson Kundig

Cross-Section of the Tophouse to show Observation Deck Renovations. Image © Olson Kundig

The project team collaborated closely with the City of Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board, local architectural historians and preservationists, one of the original Space Needle structural engineers, and the community to ensure the renovation would remain true to the original spirit of the John Graham & Company-designed structure. The resulting plan achieves this goal by focusing on the removal of visual clutter, including walls and the existing wire cage  safety system.


View from the Interior Observation Deck (before). Image Courtesy of Seattle Space Needle

View from the Interior Observation Deck (before). Image Courtesy of Seattle Space Needle

View from the Interior Observation Deck (after). Image © Olson Kundig

View from the Interior Observation Deck (after). Image © Olson Kundig

New exterior glass barriers will open out at an angle, dampening reflections and creating room for canted-glass benches affixed to the structure. On the inside, floor-to-ceiling glass will replace the existing windowed walls, bringing light deeper into the space and creating spectacular views from anywhere in the space.


Circular stairway connecting from the Observation Deck to the Restaurant Level (after). Image © Olson Kundig

Circular stairway connecting from the Observation Deck to the Restaurant Level (after). Image © Olson Kundig

 Other new features will include a new open circular stairway made of steel, wood, and glass connecting the Observation and Restaurant levels, a glass-floored oculus revealing views of the superstructure and elevator systems, and an improved mezzanine level. All spaces will be retrofitted for improved accessibility, with enlarged doorways and stairways and a custom-designed ADA lift.


Early design concept for the Interior Restaurant Level before the integration of the new Tihany Design concepts. Image © Olson Kundig

Early design concept for the Interior Restaurant Level before the integration of the new Tihany Design concepts. Image © Olson Kundig

Construction on the project is scheduled to begin in September 2017, and will open over stages, with the initial unveiling slated for June 2018. 

News via Seattle Space Needle.


Tophouse of the Space Needle (after). Image © Olson Kundig

Tophouse of the Space Needle (after). Image © Olson Kundig

AD Classics: Space Needle / John Graham & Company

The opening of the Century 21 Exposition on April 21, 1962 transformed the image of Seattle and the American Northwest in the eyes of the world. The region, which had been known until that point more for its natural resources than as a cultural capital, established a new reputation as a center of emergent technologies and aerospace design.

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