Tuesday Sep 20, 2022

Who Really Designed the Space Needle?

Newly discovered files shed light on the creation of the Seattle icon and the fight over who deserves the credit for its distinctive look. Hear all about it in this special preview of the new Crosscut podcast, Crosscut Reports.

When the Space Needle rose quickly on the Seattle city skyline, the response was varied. Some loved it, some hated it. Some likened it to a flower blossoming, others said it resembled a mushroom cloud. The Cold War was on everyone’s mind. So was the future. The Needle was supposed to represent the Space Age, a bright future that looked to the stars. It was also supposed to represent the aspirations of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, also called the Century 21 Exposition, and reflect the forward-looking city itself.

But in the fall of 1961, as the Needle tower neared completion and the citizenry warmed to it, controversy broke out, an all-out war of words between the architects — Victor Steinbrueck and his boss John “Jack” Graham, Jr.

That there was a war is no secret — the conflict played out in the press at the time. But the dispute between these two groundbreaking architects goes deeper than previously understood. New files discovered in the dirt cellar of Steinbrueck's Eastlake home reveal that Graham sought censure of the man who provided the sketches that gave the Space Needle’s tower its unique shape.

This and other revelations surrounding the Space Needle's creation that were found in those files are the subject of this, the first episode of the first season of Crosscut Reports.

To listen to the next two episodes of this series on Victor Steinbrueck, search for Crosscut Reports wherever you listen, or go to crosscut.com/podcasts.

For photos from The Steinbrueck Files and an accompanying essay by editor-at-large Knute Berger, go here.  



Host/Producer: Sara Bernard

Reporter: Knute Berger

Editorial assistance: Brooklyn Jamerson-Flowers

Executive producer: Mark Baumgarten


If you would like to support Crosscut, go to crosscut.com/membership. In addition to supporting our events and our daily journalism, members receive complete access to the on-demand programming of Seattle’s PBS station, KCTS 9.

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