Day 312/365 of Steel – Victor Steinbrueck

Victor Steinbrueck (December 15, 1911 – February 14, 1985) was an American architect, best known for his efforts to preserve Seattle’s Pioneer Square and Pike Place Market. Working as a consultant to John Graham & Company, Steinbrueck played a key role in the design work of the Space Needle.

Space Needle (1961)

The Space Needle is an observation tower in Seattle. The Space Needle was initially built as the dominant central structure for the World’s Fair, inspired by the Stuttgart Tower. One of his early sketches resembled a tethered balloon, while another was a balloon-shaped house on a central column anchored by cables.

An aerial view of the Space Needle painted gold for its 50th anniversary celebration.
Fig 1: An aerial view of the Space Needle painted gold for its 50th anniversary celebration.
Photo: Liesl Matthies

In the end, the futuristic design was a compromise between the designer and the architect John Graham who turned the balloon design into a flying saucer. Victor Steinbrueck was responsible for introducing the tower’s hourglass profile.

The top of the Space Needle in Seattle, Washington
Fig 2: The top of the Space Needle in Seattle, Washington
Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia user Cacophony (licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0)

An underground foundation was poured 9.1 m deep by 37 m wide. The foundation contains 250 tons of rebar, and weighs 5,850 tons. The steel needle structure is bolted to the foundation using 72 bolts. The tower was built to withstand wind speeds of 200 mph (322 km/h), double the required standards of the time. The five-level ‘flying saucer’ deck was balanced so that the restaurant is capable of revolving on a track-and-wheel system.

Seattle's Space Needle
Fig 3: Seattle’s Space Needle
Photo: © Olson Kundig

The tower was completed in just 400 days, and officially opened on the first day of the World’s Fair in April 1962, instantly becoming an icon of the city of Seattle.

The Space Needle under construction
Fig 4: The Space Needle under construction
Photo: Public Domain

About the Author:

Bruno Dursin – Managing Director at Believe in Steel. Bruno has more than 30 years of experience in promoting steel & steel solutions. His clients benefit from his extensive network within the building industry.

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