Space Needle Was Once Considered A Monstrosity By Architecture Critics

May 14, 2013

Knute Berger at his writer's table in the Space Needle.
Knute Berger at his writer's table in the Space Needle.
Credit Tom Reese Photography

Correction: The original broadcast of this story dated Knute Berger’s year in residence at the Space Needle as 2012. In fact, it was most of 2011.

Seattle's Space Needle turned 50 years old last year. It was built for the 1962 World’s Fair. The public loved it immediately. But the architectural critics of the time were much less enthusiastic. They called it a monstrosity. They called it pretentious. They called it vulgar.
 

Credit Knute Berger

Knute Berger spent much of 2011 sitting at a table in the Space Needle where he worked as its writer in residence. His private area was roped off by those dividers they use to line people up at the movie theater. Sometimes tourists would stop and ogle him, as if he were an exhibit.

Knute sympathizes with those tourists. He’s loved the Space Needle since he first saw it under construction in 1961. He tells us why the critics hated it so much, and how they gradually came to accept it for what it was: an experiment with new materials and an unlikely symbol of optimism from an age when people were building bomb shelters in fear of a Soviet nuclear attack.

The Space Needle under construction
The Space Needle under construction
Credit Knute Berger

Knute Berger is the author of "Space Needle: The Spirit Of Seattle." He and other journalists gather to review the news of the week every Friday at 10:00 a.m. on KUOW.

Full list of stories from KUOW Presents, May 14:

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