After 11 months of high-flying construction more than 500 feet above Seattle, a team led by Olson Kundig has completed construction on renovations to the historic Space Needle. The so-called “Century Project” nearly doubles the amount of glass coverage on the structure’s flying saucer-shaped Top House, as part of the firm’s efforts to use “subtraction as a guiding design principle,” according to Olson Kundig’s Alan Maskin, the design principal for the renovation. With this goal in mind, the designers worked to remove the uncoordinated detritus left over from previous designs, including the obtrusive aluminum pony walls separating the indoor observation deck from the open-air viewing area. The effort is geared not only toward opening up the Top House to pristine, 360-degree views, but also toward adding elements that were originally intended for the structure but ultimately were not realized. The Space Needle debuted in 1962 with one of the world’s first revolving-floor restaurants, ushering in what would become a global trend in mid-20th-century design. The original opaque revolving floor has been replaced with sheets of tempered structural glass fabricated in Germany by Thiele Glas, an upgrade that provides views straight down to the ground below. The glass floor also allows visitors to peer into the inner workings of the Space Needle itself by highlighting the moving gears and pulleys—something akin to a “huge Swiss watch,” according to Maskin—that bring the rotating floor and elevators to life. Engineering services provided by Arup, Fives Lund, and Magnusson Klemencic Associates were instrumental in the design’s precision-driven focus, which included seismic retrofitting and other tricky structural upgrades. Front Inc. acted as the glazing consultant to Olson Kundig For the duration of the project and collaborated with MKA to engineer the structural glass assemblies for Hoffman Construction, the project’s general contractor. Achieving Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance was another key concern for the renovations. The Seattle Space Needle opened 28 years before ADA regulations took effect and contained areas that were only partially accessible to disabled visitors. With the Century Project, the design team brings full accessibility to the Top House by adding a new central “Oculus Stair” that features dynamic treads that collapse into a platform that can carry individuals between levels as needed. In the observation areas, non-continuous glass benches leave ample room for someone who uses a wheelchair to get right up to the outwardly canted glass barriers that wrap the space. Here, the architects have restored visitors’ ability to peer down over the edge of the saucer, an aspect that was lost with the addition of cumbersome safety gear many years before. The 11-by-7-foot, 2.5-inch-thick glass panels that wrap the observation platform were installed by specially designed robots created by Breedt Production Tooling & Design. The installation, like many other aspects of the renovation, involved navigating “wickedly complex logistics” and a nearly ’round-the-clock schedule. Hurdles for the project included accounting for significant wind deflection in the design and fabrication specifications for many components and designing nearly all components so that they could be transported up the Space Needle’s passenger elevators. Several feats of design and engineering later, the Space Needle’s new views are crystal clear and fully on display for all to see.
Posts tagged with "Space Needle":
Olson Kundig has completed work on the Century Project, a $100 million renovation effort aimed at upgrading and retrofitting the Seattle Space Needle’s iconic Top House. The project comprises the most extensive set of renovations undertaken in the 55-year history of the Space Needle. Changes to the structure include replacing metal panel cladding with floor-to-ceiling glass, replacing the motor for the Top Houses’s rotating restaurant, and reconfiguring the exterior wrap-around observation areas to be more open and transparent. The observation deck platforms have been reconfigured to include integrated benches along exterior partitions made from tempered glass. Here, metallic “caging” barricades have been removed and replaced with tempered glass. The effect is one of sheer transparency, with the Top House now providing unobstructed, 360-degreeds views of the city, which in recent weeks has been choked with smoke that has wafted into the area from nearby wildfires burning in Siberia and Northern California. https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=FL-JmdNnd9Y&app=desktop&persist_app=1 Perhaps the most eye-popping change is that the floors within the Top House have been converted to glass, giving visitors to the rotating restaurant 520-foot high views of the sprawling Emerald City below. The new flooring is made of 10 layers of glass, including a so-called “scuff layer” that can be removed and replaced without compromising the floor’s structural integrity. The spinning floor can rotate at variable speeds and is capable of completing a rotation in anywhere between 20 and 90 minutes, depending on the setting. The project also brings extensive ADA-related upgrades to the pinnacle. New York-based Tihany Design has provided interior design services throughout the project, including for the restaurant. The 600-foot tall structure was originally designed by Edward E. Carlson, architect John Graham, and Victor Steinbrueck for the 1962 World's Fair. When completed, the Space Needle was the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River. The Space Needle is now open to the public.
For the second time this year, Seattle-based Olson Kundig has released new, jaw-dropping renderings depicting the firm’s planned renovations for the Seattle Space Needle. The renderings come as construction on the $100 million Century Project gets underway, following the installation of a 44,650-square-foot scaffolding platform at the base of the Space Needle’s Tophouse. The platform, installed by scaffolding firm Safway, will act as a base for a temporary, weather-proof structure that will shield the project’s 25 construction workers from inclement weather at the top of the Space Needle, 400 feet up in the air. The temporary structure will contain construction activity to the exterior of the Tophouse, allowing for the facilities to remain open throughout the build-out. The new renderings showcase the breath-taking vistas Olson Kundig’s designs will lend to the Space Needle, including those from a panoramic dining room supported by a rotating, all-glass floor. The renovated restaurant space will occupy the 15-foot-long rotating ring at the circumference of the Space Needle’s Tophouse and will have wrap-around views of the city provided by a continuous band of thin-framed tempered glass windows. Below the glass slab floors, the Space Needle’s structure and the gear assemblies that keep the top spinning, will be visible, as well. Tihany Design is doing the restaurant's interiors, with interior architecture by Olson Kundig. The public observation platform above will receive new all-glass enclosures, including a glass railing and embedded glass benches. Safety fencing will also be replaced and exchanged for an all-glass envelope. ADA-compliant upgrades will also be made to the structure throughout.
Principals Alana Maskin and Blair Payson told The Architect’s Newspaper that “A key design goal for the project is to improve the breathtaking and awe-inspiring view from the observation deck for all visitors.” The designers plan on making the complex more responsive to the needs of differently-abled users by adding new accessibility ramps as well as a new platform lift for wheelchair accessibility will link the observation level and exterior observation deck. The lift is designed to function as a stair when not in use as wheelchair access and can transform automatically to fit each use. The designers will also boost accessibility features for all of the Space Needle’s bathrooms, enlarging and reconfiguring facilities to ensure ADA compliance.
Another goal of the project, Maskin and Payson explained, was to bring the new designs in line with original visions for the spire, which included floor-to-ceiling glass enclosures on the observation levels that were not entirely possible given existing technologies at the time of original construction. Maskin added, "If there is one material that defines this renovation, it is glass,” while explaining that the firm had partnered with glazing engineer Front to utilize “every typical glass type” in existence, from annealed, heat-
strengthened, heat-tempered, chemically-tempered, and laminated glass technologies.Construction is expected to be completed by summer 2018, and the Century Project website has more information. Blair Payson, Principal at Olson Kundig, will be speaking about the project at Facades+AM Seattle on December 8th.
Seattle-based Olson Kundig has released new renderings of the firm’s proposed renovations for Seattle’s Space Needle, the most extensive upgrades undertaken in the structure’s 55-year history. If the renovations shoot for anything, it’s more glass and bigger views—the firm’s designs aim to strip away some the aging barriers and partitions along the needle’s Tophouse observation platform, replacing old metal panels with floor-to-ceiling tempered glass. Steel metal panel partitions containing handrails along the exterior observation platform are being radically reconfigured as new structural glass barriers containing integrated glass benches that will allow for the “perfect spine-tingling Seattle selfie,” according to a project website. The existing wire metal “caging” structures that prevent people from jumping off the Space Needle will also be removed and replaced with structural glass partitions that will provide unobstructed views of the city’s growing skyline. Along the interior of the Tophouse, an existing, rotating restaurant will be refurbished and its interior finishes pared down. New York-based Tihany Design will provide interior design services for the restaurant portion of the renovation; the renderings featured here do not yet reflect those designs. The new renderings do, however, showcase all-white interiors with many of the existing partitions removed entirely. A new spiral staircase made out of wood, steel, and glass will be inserted into the Tophouse; this will allow visitors to climb between its multiple floors. Down below? A glass-floored oculus will showcase the Space Needle’s structure, the workings of the elevator systems, and the city below. A new Americans with Disabilities Act–compliant lift will also be added to the structure. The first phase of the $100-million project will begin in September 2017, with the work due to be completed in June 2018. For more information, see the project website.
Last week, we highlighted historic mid-century modern architecture photographs digitized by the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. And now farther north on the west coast is another new archive find. The Seattle Public Library Special Collections—located on the top floor (nope, not relegated to a dusty basement as is often the case) of the OMA / Rem Koolhaas and LMN-designed Central Library in downtown Seattle—just digitized over 2,400 historic Space Needle construction photographs (and a daily construction log, too). Local Seattleite professional photographer George Gulacsik captured the construction details of the famous 605 foot tall Seattle landmark that took less than a year to build: there are photos of the cement pouring preparation, the painting, the fin raising, the visitors, onlookers, and more. Gulacsik took the photos between April 1961 and October 1962. There is even a photo of former President John F. Kennedy's motorcade taken from above, as Kennedy made his way through Seattle to give a speech at the University of Washington in November 1961. Many Gulacsik images were used as marketing in a 1962 promotional publication, "Space Needle USA." Gulacsik's wife donated his photos in 2010 after he passed away. The collection is named after him. The Space Needle is said to be inspired by the Stuttgart TV Tower in Germany. The design is typically credited to architecture firm John Graham and Company, Victor Steinbrueck, and John Ridley, who worked with businessman Edward E. Carlson and his napkin sketch concept. "Graham was excited by the challenge, and assembled a large team of associates including Art Edwards, Manson Bennett, Erle Duff, Al Miller, Nate Wilkinson, Victor Steinbrueck, and John Ridley," explains History Link, the online nonprofit Washington State history encyclopedia. "In working to translate Carlson’s doodle into blueprints, they explored a variety of ideas ranging from a single saucer-capped spire to a structure resembling a tethered balloon. Steinbrueck hit on a wasp-waisted tripod for the Space Needle’s legs and Ridley perfected the double-decked “top house” crown." Now we can view the collection from our armchairs, couches, and desks.
Now over half a century old, there is talk of renovating the Seattle Space Needle. It hosts over one million visitors a year eager to ride the elevator 520 feet up to the observation deck or to dine in the revolving restaurant. The details? Space Needle owners are considering adding a glass floor to the restaurant so diners could see how the space rotates, reports The Puget Sound Business Journal. There are also other ideas: two-story elevators, bringing in more glass for the observation deck for better views, an interior refresh, and repainting. A local Seattle-based firm, Olson Kundig, is reportedly part of the team designing the upgrades. Given the importance of the building (and the Seattle process) many of these proposed changes could be several years out. The Architectural Review Committee must first give the green light, before these ideas could move forward.