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A Fair To Remember
August 11, 2009 11:35 AM   Subscribe

Concept proposals for Seattle's Space Needle. More sketches and images, from the University of Washington's image database. Erecting The Needle, a four-part series about the Space Needle's construction: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, with a picture of the rarely-seen gas-flame beacon in action. And this morning, the Space Needle was briefly for sale!
posted by mattdidthat (40 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Little know fact: the flame beacon was intended for use in the event of attack by Godzilla or similar.
posted by exogenous at 11:42 AM on August 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I figured it was to help Hindenburg the place up a bit.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:54 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fascinating, thanks for the post.

Also:
Heheheh.. you said erecting and gas-flame in the same post. Heheheheh.
posted by yiftach at 11:59 AM on August 11, 2009


Thanks for the flame beacon pix--that was new to me--I love the Space Needle!

It's quite the multipurpose structure.

Here are some videos of The Space Needle as:
1) A stage for fireworks,
2) A lightning rod, and
3) A place to jump off*


* From the Seattle Times: "In November 1996, parachutist Jessica Kluetmeier plunged to the ground after jumping from the Space Needle when her steering line became entangled with her parachute. Kluetmeier suffered a fractured vertebra in her lower back. Mulholland also participated in that jump, which was part of a TV stunt."
posted by donovan at 12:58 PM on August 11, 2009


I drive by the Space Needle pretty much every day. I like to think of it as the Seattle Skyline giving me the finger. "Yeah, fuck you, too, Seattle," I whisper to the ether, admiringly. "We'll party again soon, and reputations will be ruined." What other city would build its entire image around a giant rusty syringe?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:08 PM on August 11, 2009


What other city would build its entire image around a giant rusty syringe?

At least it's not the Sunsphere. Someone, quick, fill that fucker with wigs!

Interesting how a lot of the conceptual drawings are very similar to the actual Needle. And gas-flame beacon? I had no idea, how cool.
posted by IvoShandor at 1:12 PM on August 11, 2009


Oh, this picture of an Elephant Wash sign with the Space Needle in the background is just too wonderful.
posted by Spatch at 1:13 PM on August 11, 2009


Gas flame beacon? That's an awesome (if wasteful as heck) idea. We need more Bladerunner-style city horizons, with bizarre structures and jets of open flame.

Come to think of it, south central El Paso, TX used to light up pretty well as the refineries would burn off natural gases and random toxins in towers of flame. We seriously need more of that sort of nonsense, immediately.
posted by blixco at 1:25 PM on August 11, 2009


> And this morning, the Space Needle was briefly for sale!

Dang. It would have gone great with my suspension bridge.
posted by ardgedee at 1:29 PM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


That Elephant Car Wash is still there. I'm not sure if the one on fourth, just down from Safeco Field, is still there though.

Space Needle for sale? I'm curious what that was about.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:33 PM on August 11, 2009


We lunched in the restaurant. No one offered a gas-flame-beacon-broiled dish.
posted by Cranberry at 1:33 PM on August 11, 2009


It would have gone great with my suspension bridge

I, myself, have a suspension of disbelief bridge. Or do I?!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:34 PM on August 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


From what I can tell from the various clues they give and the placement of it's helicopter pad the hospital in Greys Anaromy is located at the foot of the Space Needle, which would be a fucking stupid place for a hospital.
posted by Artw at 1:58 PM on August 11, 2009


The main exterior shot they use is Fisher Plaza, plus a little cgi so it doesn't say KOMO 4 NEWS across the hospital building. I think they also use exterior shots of other hospitals.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:23 PM on August 11, 2009


Love the early concept drawings. Especially this one (on the left.)

I'm a Seattle resident, and though I don't think the Space Needle is great architecture, it's a much better landmark than this eyesore, which I like to call "When Billionaires Poop."
posted by Ratio at 2:46 PM on August 11, 2009


Gas flame beacon? That's an awesome (if wasteful as heck) idea.

Drive through Indiana at night some time. You'll see oil derricks cranking away with plumes of natural gas burning off of them on account of it makes more (financial) sense to burn it than to sell it.

That said, I remember looking over a lot of these images when I worked at UW SpecCol and I'm glad they made it online (though I still wish ContentDM was a little more robust with its metadata handling). The thing about the space needle is that it's so freakin' iconic that I can't have an opinion about it. I literally have no idea if it's pretty or not. It just is. Most of the adoptive Seattlites I know feel the same way. My wife, however, met a man on the bus who worked on the space needle when it was being built and he assured her that it is beautiful.

Ratio: I didn't know how I felt about the EMP for a long time. I thought it was kind of cool but overdone and over-the-top and just a little too... much to be really attractive. In spite of the fact that I don't like it, I think it's a great building, just not one that's to my taste. And then I learned that Gehry intended the building to be an architectural embodiment of Jimi Hendrix's guitar playing. My opinions on Hendrix's playing are precisely the same as my opinion of the EMP, so I can only think that Gehry did a swell job on the EMP. And I'd like to see what he comes up with when someone tells him to make a building that looks like a Willie Nelson guitar solo.

And, while I'm at it, the Seattle Central Library is a gorgeous building designed by someone who clearly has no idea how a downtown public library is actually used.
posted by stet at 3:07 PM on August 11, 2009


Is that the Sci-Fi Hall of Fame? Gehry has designed some magnificent structures, I don't know about this one though. I seem to remember the building getting a fair amount of criticism from architectural critics when it opened.
posted by IvoShandor at 3:09 PM on August 11, 2009


Shoulda previewed, my comment was aimed at the above: which I like to call "When Billionaires Poop."
posted by IvoShandor at 3:10 PM on August 11, 2009


Each time I walk to my office elevator, I pass a 20th-story lovely view of the Space Needle, which is great. Unfortunately, the same view also contains the EMP. It's amazing that I still get a tiny bit mad every time I look at that fucking thing.
posted by Skot at 3:16 PM on August 11, 2009


IvoShandor: yes, the SciFi Museum/Experience Music Project.

Or, as I like to call it, "When The Partridge Family Bus Crashed and Melted."
posted by Ratio at 3:18 PM on August 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Haha, here it is, From a Herbert Muschamp piece in '04 describing the Gehry building (Sci-Fi Hall of Fame/Experience Music Project Whatever): "looks like something that crawled out of the sea, rolled over and died". Incidentally, that Muschamp piece is a fairly positive review of the library mentioned upthread by stet.
posted by IvoShandor at 3:19 PM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


"When The Partridge Family Bus Crashed and Melted."

If only.

which I like to call "When Billionaires Poop."

To add to both of these. When I was really young I concocted this gelatinous glob out of Lemonheads candy, food coloring, vanilla extract and whatever else was in my mom's spice cupboard. By the time I finished I think it was breathing. I poured into the alley behind my boyhood home. I'm pretty sure Frank Gehry walked by 45 minutes later, saw the goo baking in the sun, had a Eureka! moment, and proceeded to sketch the preliminary drawings for the Experience Music Project.

Free Lemonheads to the MeFite who has a better insult for this Gehry monstrosity. :-)
posted by IvoShandor at 3:28 PM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I like the pretty colors of the EMP.
posted by smackfu at 3:29 PM on August 11, 2009


btw, The Parallax View is up on YT in its entirety, including, of course, the thrilling opening sequence set on the Space Needle.

Although if you know how wide the balcony is -- and you can see in practically the next shot of it in profile -- it's not as scary as it seems.
posted by dhartung at 3:34 PM on August 11, 2009


Borked the link: the thrilling opening sequence.
posted by dhartung at 3:35 PM on August 11, 2009


At least it's not the Sunsphere.
posted by IvoShandor


At least it is not a peach that looks like a giant ass.
posted by marxchivist at 3:42 PM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, also worth noting is that the Sky Church in the EMP is one of the finest places I've ever been to hear a show from an acoustic perspective. I've no idea if this is due to Gehry, whatever hypothetical acoustic engineer he subcontracted the job to, or the JBL sponsorship of the room but it's fucking fantastic.

Also, Muschamp's review is spectacularly uninformed. Yes, it's a pretty building, but that doesn't address the fact that SPL had to pay a full-time employee to stand at the top floor and instruct patrons how to get back to street level. You know why? Because the escalators don't go down! No. Because the architect got a clause in the contract that signs aren't allowed. They fuck with his vision, apparently.

On the upside, the fancy library has been enormously successful in that it's expanded patronage of the Seattle central library something fierce. Good on Koolhaus for that, even though the nice volunteers that offered to send homeless people to welding school skipped me right the fuck over. I wanna go to welding school!
posted by stet at 4:07 PM on August 11, 2009


Ah, I love World's Fair buildings. Can I mention the following:
San Francisco - Pan Pacific World's Fair
1964/65 New York World's Fair (Not sanctioned by the governing body of world's fairs)
Paris - Exposition Universelle (1889)
Montreal - Expo '67
posted by subaruwrx at 4:10 PM on August 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sorry for the derail, I just wanted to bring to light other buildings from past Expos
posted by subaruwrx at 4:11 PM on August 11, 2009


All you all whining about the EMP forgot about its predecessor (just a few blocks away): The Blob.
posted by dw at 4:47 PM on August 11, 2009


I like The Blob more than the death of modern music.
A classical music fan, Gehry wanted to understand rock 'n' roll so he traded in his Bach for Hendrix and took a trip to the neighborhood guitar store. Gehry bought several electric guitars, took them back to his office and cut them into pieces.
(source)

Seems like trying to understand a frog by cutting up and piling the pieces in a new, aesthetically pleasing formation. The bits are all there, but it's not a frog anymore.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:58 PM on August 11, 2009


IIRC, the blob building wasn't viewable outside that block. Maybe unless someone had a good view from Upper Queen Anne. The EMP has kind of grown on me though. I don't mind it so much anymore. It definitely could've been better. Just look at most of the other Gerhy buildings.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:10 PM on August 11, 2009


I drive by the Space Needle pretty much every day. I like to think of it as the Seattle Skyline giving me the finger. "Yeah, fuck you, too, Seattle," I whisper to the ether, admiringly. "We'll party again soon, and reputations will be ruined." What other city would build its entire image around a giant rusty syringe?

Dublin!. Having lived here ten years, I can only conclude that the blue sky was Photoshopped in. Actually, the blue sky somehow makes the whole picture loom fake.
posted by kersplunk at 6:12 PM on August 11, 2009


Why were needle things the thing to do at world's fairs?
posted by djduckie at 7:02 PM on August 11, 2009


Ever since he was 4 years old, my son has called EMP the 'double-wrecked building'
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 7:10 PM on August 11, 2009


stet: the Seattle Central Library is a gorgeous building designed by someone who clearly has no idea how a downtown public library is actually used.

Joshua Prince-Ramus on the design of the Seattle Central Library.
posted by gc at 8:06 PM on August 11, 2009


...to continue on de rail of World's Fair structures, there's the Trylon and Perisphere of New York 1939 and my favorite, the Atomium of Brussels 1958. Fuller's Expo 67 dome is a very close second, though, especially since going to that Fair is one of my early memories...
posted by foonly at 1:12 AM on August 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Too bad the Trylon and Perisphere don't exist anymore. I think we can blame that on Robert Moses, although we did get the Unisphere out of it.
posted by smackfu at 5:49 AM on August 12, 2009


From filthy light thief's EMP link:
The red will fade with time, altering the appearance of the building's exterior and reflecting how music is ever changing.
That's an awesome excuse. If I ever own a house I'm not going to repaint it ever, and instead just tell everybody that it's reflecting how music changes and, uh, peels.
posted by Spatch at 5:51 AM on August 12, 2009


I dig the EMP, it reminds me of the Aquarius Complex from Ronin. I often wish it would start growing and take over the city.
posted by Jawn at 8:03 PM on August 12, 2009


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