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Space Needle Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Space Needle has been the defining mark of the Seattle skyline since it was built for the 1962 World's Fair.

If you see a picture of the Space Needle, you instantly think of Seattle. There are numerous gorgeous photos of the iconic structure floating around the internet. I'm led to believe that these are typically taken from Kerry Park, which puts the observation deck of the Needle above, and just to the left of, the Columbia Center, the tall black building in the middle of the group at left. It also puts Mt. Rainier in the background.
Check the opening credits for Grey's Anatomy or Frasier, or anything else set in the Emerald City, and you can bet you'll see the famous spire from basically this position.

I wasn't in Kerry Park for this shot (I didn't know about that location until later) but I was pretty close.

I went to Seattle for the first time a little less than a year ago for a curling bonspiel. We didn't go downtown, but I got a glimpse of the Space Needle as we drove past on the freeway. So what was my first impression? "It's awfully small, isn't it?"

That's right, the Space Needle is nowhere near as large as you would think by looking at the pictures of it. Sure, at 520 feet (605 feet to the tip of the warning beacon) it's no mere smial. But it would look pretty puny next to the Columbia Center (937 feet), Washington Mutual Tower (771), Two Union Square (741), Seattle Municipal Tower (722), and 1001 Fourth Avenue Place (630). Heck, even Portland's Wells Fargo Center (544) and US Bancorp Tower (535) top out above the observation deck of the Space Needle.

(As a reference for Canadian readers, First Canadian Place in Toronto is 978 feet tall. The CN Tower is 1815 feet tall, exactly 3 times the height of the Space Needle.)

So why does Seattle's icon look so big? Because it's only about a mile away from Kerry Park, half the distance of the high-rises downtown. The closer something is, the bigger it appears.

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