Space Needle

“Building the Marvel”

Work Dates: October 2015 – April 2016

Group Delphi thrives on building spectacular experiences in spectacular locations. So where some see a 600-foot-tall, world-renowned landmark, we see the perfect canvas.

Built in just in time for the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962, the Space Needle is a masterpiece of engineering with a rich, fascinating history. Group Delphi’s challenge: present the story of the Space Needle in a manner as compelling and awe-inspiring as the structure itself.

The Setting

Delphi’s installation lives in the “Nautilus” pavilion, an ascending, greenhouse-style structure at the base of the Space Needle. A stunning architectural statement in its own right, the pavilion — essentially a massive ramp that serves ticketing, retail and lobby functions — is composed almost entirely of steel and glass, allowing sunlight to fill and illuminate its 15,000 square feet. The pavilion encircles the Space Needle’s legs, offering 1.25 million visitors each year a glimpse of the structure’s history — and the thrill of anticipation as they make their way from earthbound security to the elevator.

Telling the Story

We knew that to capture the Space Needle’s distinctive history, our presentation of the story had to match the tone and style of the time.

Working with design partner Storyline Studio, Delphi built 10 concave and three convex lightbox units to display rear-illuminated, layered cutout graphics. Each lightbox was custom-designed to fit the curved, ascending walls of the Nautilus space. These large frames provide the backdrop for graphics depicting snippets of the Space Needle story, from Edward E. Carlson’s 1959 design sketch on a coffee house napkin to the official opening on April 21, 1962. Each panel retains the charm and feel of the early 60s in its artwork and the impressive, steel-beam look of the Space Needle in its structure. The custom hanging system we built for this application also matches the Space Needle look, as do the modifications we made to the existing structure and railings.

Custom halo-shaped light fixtures, reminiscent of the Jetsons, evoke a futuristic feel similar to the one that inspired Carlson’s design. And a series of 6-foot-tall, transparent, cylindrical showcase tubes contain 3D-printed, scale models of the Space Needle in various states of construction. One tube depicts a near-empty lot, its foundation being poured by some of the 467 cement trucks the project required; another shows the 605-foot-tall finished product scaled down to 6 feet, giving visitors a sense of the sheer size of the project. Audio-visual and manipulative interactive exhibits complete the experience.

Bonus Builds

Group Delphi fabricated a unique guest reception and ticketing counter gateway, along with a “Spacebook” sign over the guest photo portrait area. We also coordinated and advised the Space Needle operations and their electrical contractor to ensure a smooth installation.
Of course, since we love a challenge, all this occurred in a space that retained its functionality for guests during operational hours — guests who are reportedly thrilled with “Building the Marvel,” a unique and fascinating addition to one of America’s most cherished landmarks.