The Seattle World’s Fair of 1962 celebrated Century 21, offering a vision of the future to 10 million visitors and defining Seattle as a city of innovation. Structural engineers contributed to this vision through the application of pioneering techniques in the design of the fair’s structures — the Space Needle, the Washington State Coliseum (now Key Arena), the Monorail, the United States Science Pavilion (now Pacific Science Center), and other permanent and temporary structures. Their design and construction involved cutting-edge structural technology, challenging the fair’s designers to push the limits of contemporary structural design. The structures incorporated tension-cable roofs, pre-cast concrete, high-rise steel, thin-shell concrete — all relatively new methods of building, offering new possibilities to the fair’s future-thinking design. By design, the buildings and structures expressed and supported the fair’s celebrations, while also creating a landmark urban center with an enduring role in the life of the city.
There was much to see and do at the fair. Many visitors’ first taste was a ride on the Monorail, which whisked people to and from downtown Seattle. The ride took only 95 seconds, but at 50 cents a pop (35 cents for children), it was not to be missed. The Space Needle was another must-see.
Arriving at the fair, a visitor’s choices were many. Children were attracted to the Science Pavilion, or the Gayway, a space-oriented amusement zone with rides such as the Meteor, the Space Whirl, the Trip to Mars, or the perennial favorite, The Wild Mouse. Parents wanted to see the industrial and foreign exhibits, and Dad most likely wanted to sneak off to the girlie shows on Show Street. Meals were eaten at the Food Circus (housed in the old Armory Building) or a special meal could be eaten on top of the Space Needle.
-Excerpt from “Century 21 World’s Fair — Structural Engineering” by Marga Rose Hancock, and “Century 21 — The 1962 Seattle World’s Fair”, by Alan J. Stein, HistoryLink.org,