For 55 years, the Space Needle has been an iconic landmark towering 605 feet over Seattle, with history dating back to the 1962 World’s Fair. But come 2018, the tower will be almost completely unrecognizable after a fresh renovation.
After a survey conducted over the past few years found that guests viewed the needle’s interior as “tired and dated,” CEO Ron Sevart decided to bring the tower into the 21st century. Nearly 176 tons of glass will be used to deck out the landmark’s famous views of Seattle, replacing old wire structures and supports with pristine viewing panels; the restaurant and observation deck will feature the most significant changes. Seattle-based design firm Olson Kundig is undertaking the $100 million renovation, privately funded by the Wright family, who owns the tower. Coined “The Century Project,” this will be the largest investment in the structure since it was built.
Construction began in mid-September, and the tower is already reflecting changes. Restaurant SkyCity, famed for its 360-degree views of Seattle, is currently being re-outfitted with new windows and a glass floor, giving visitors a direct view of center city 500 feet below. Even the tables and chairs will be replaced with transparent glass models—not exactly a vertigo-friendly dining experience, especially considering the floor slowly rotates. If you’re not afraid of heights, consider this a chance to add a thrilling meal to your bucket list. After all, once the renovation is complete and the restaurant reopens next May, SkyCity will be the first rotating glass floor restaurant in the world. And, with a new menu, the experience is sure to be unforgettable. (For the most bang for your buck, just make sure you go on a clear day).
After your meal, you’ll be able to follow an open circular stairway from the restaurant up to the observation deck, which is also getting a facelift. Given that the current view is blocked by window supports, floor-to-ceiling glass panels will replace the wire safety cage. They’ll be tilted outwards, so visitors can recline on benches and “lean back into the sky” as they overlook the city—and see just how far down the ground is. To keep the deck open throughout the renovation, construction will be done in sections, moving counterclockwise one-sixth of the saucer at a time.
The entire project will take years to complete, but Olson Kundig hopes the restaurant and observation deck will be ready to reopen in summer 2018. The renovation also has the goal of garnering an LEED Silver certification for improved energy use. “This is a historic time for the Space Needle and city of Seattle,” said Karen Olson, Space Needle CMO, in a press release. “When the Space Needle was first constructed, the community was involved and engaged throughout the process, and we’ve approached this project the same way. We’ve worked hard to create an approach that allows us to remain open during construction, offering guests the unprecedented experience of seeing the renovation of an icon.”