The Century Project at the Space Needle

Architect: Olson Kundig

Owner: The Space Needle

Location: Seattle

An international icon of the Pacific Northwest and one of the world’s most photographed buildings, Seattle’s Space Needle has long heralded the future with a palpable sense of optimism. Launched in the building’s 55th year, the Century Project is a significant redesign focused on providing a new visitor experience that ensures the building remains a source of inspiration for the next 50 years.

The Space Needle opened to the public in 1962 when Seattle hosted the World’s Fair. At that moment, the building reflected the city’s forward-thinking mentality, a legacy that endures today. Because of the impressive views and thrilling experience of vertigo it offers, the Space Needle attracted more than 60 million worldwide visitors during its first 50 years of operation.

Despite its enduring popularity, visitor surveys revealed that the original thrill that visitors experienced when stepping off of the Space Needle’s elevators had been lost after decades of interior renovations. Following a refresh of the building’s website and digital presence, the design team brainstormed on what a revitalized guest experience could look like. A series of conceptual interventions, steeped in the bold ambitions of the Space Needle’s original architects, helped illustrate the impact of a thoughtful, large-scale renovation and inspired the launch of the Century Project.

The renovation, which is certified LEED Gold for Commercial Interiors, builds on the central premise that informed the Space Needle: a new way of seeing. The project includes the world’s first rotating glass floor on the restaurant level just below the observation deck. Above, floor-to-ceiling glass barriers with integral glass benches await visitors on the observation deck. Connecting all three levels, which feature revised interiors, is a steel and glass stair with a glass-floored oculus. This enlivened sense of transparency emphasizes the visitor experience and provides unrivaled views of Seattle.

The Space Needle’s transformation also reveals the ingenuity of its original contruction. The new glass floor in the restaurant functions as a 360-degree window that treats guests to a sweeping and vertigo-inducing view of the Space Needle’s superstructure below as they walk across it.

Additional information

Olson Kundig - Design Principal: Alan Maskin

Olson Kundig - Project Architect: Blair Payson, AIA, LEED® AP

Olson Kundig - Architectural Staff: Marlene Chen, AIA, LEED® AP, Crystal Coleman, LEED® AP, Alex Fritz, Julia Khorsand, Hayden Robinson and Nathan Boyd

Olson Kundig - Interior Design: Naomi Mason, IIDA, LEED® AP

Olson Kundig - Interior Design Staff: Laina Navarro

Development Manager: Seneca Group

Owner’s Representative: Battle Management Consulting

General Contractor: Hoffman Construction,

Structural Engineer and Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing Engineer of Record: Arup

Seismic Improvements Structural Engineer: Magnusson Klemencic Associates

Mechanical and Plumbing Design Assist Subconsultant: Holaday-Parks, Inc.

Electrical Assist Subconsultant: Holmes

Glazing Consultant: Front, Inc.

Lighting Design: Niteo

Building Envelope Consultant: RDH

Restaurant and Café Furniture and Finishes Designer: Tihany Design

Restaurant, Café and Kitchen Architect of Record: McVey Oakley

Turntable Engineer: Fives Lund Engineering

Acoustical Engineer: BRC

Accessibility Consultant: Karen Braitmayer

Code Consultant: T.A. Kinsman Consulting

Fire Protection Consultant: Eric Tuazon

LEED Consultant: O’Brien & Company

Vertical Transportation: FS2, Inc.


Susan Blomquist, AIA, Chair, Payette, Boston

L. William Zahner, Zahner, Kansas City, Mo.

Ana Astiazaran, AIAS, University of Arizona, Tucson, Ariz.

Dominique Hawkins, FAIA, Preservation Design Partnership, LLC, Philadelphia

Eddie Jones, FAIA, Jones Studio, Tempe, Ariz.

Gia Mainiero, AIA, Dattner Architects, New York

Pierre Roberson, AIA, AECOM, Detroit

Gail Kubik, Assoc. AIA, Finegold Alexander Architects, Salem, Mass.

Heather Young, AIA, Heather Young Architects, Palo Alto, Calif.

Image credits