Space Needle Writer-in-Residence: Knute Berger Lands the Coolest Gig Ever!

By Seattle Mag


April 27, 2011

This just in! Knute Berger, Seattle mag’s editor-at-large and expert on all things Pugetopolis has landed the coolest gig ever: Space Needle Writer-in-Residence. As part of the 50th anniversary of the Seattle Center landmark, Knute (or “Skip” as he’s known here around the office) has been commissioned to write the Needle’s official history. From its Word’s Fair beginnings to its lasting influence on the city’s psyche, Knute will have plenty of time to ponder what the iconic structure means to Seattle from–as his new title would suggest–his very own Space Needle office!

I emailed Skip last week to get the scoop on his new gig. A few insights straight from the source:

Is there anything about the history of the needle that people might find surprising?
Amazingly, the Needle is second only to the Eiffel Tower in Paris as a city symbol created for a world’s fair. But it was a high risk-venture: the success of the fair was far from assured, the design of the Needle was complicated, one-of-a-kind, and involved strong and sometimes conflicting personalities, public financing for it fell through, and it was undertaken at the last minute by a group of private investors. By all rights, it should have been a flop. It was, after all, conceived on a place-mat.

Why did you want to do this project?
I wanted to do this because there’s a great story to tell that sheds light on a key moment in Seattle history when the fair, and the Needle, changed how the world sees Seattle, and how Seattle sees itself. Family owned, locally conceived, it’s more than an international tourist attraction, it’s been a huge game-changer in our civic life and psyche. I first saw the Needle while it was being built in 1961 from the observation deck of the Smith Tower. I was an 8-year-old Cub Scout, and I’ve been fascinated by it ever since.