Son of Space Needle designer shares details of how it came to be

Apr 26, 2012, 11:02 AM | Updated: 5:28 pm

The top of the Space Needle sports a new coat of orange, called “galaxy gold,” the same color it wore when it first appeared 50 years ago atop the structure, as part of the landmark’s 50th anniversary celebration. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The son of the man responsible for the design of the Space Needle doesn’t know who picked the color, but he does have a lot of insight into how the design came to be.

In an appearance on 97.3 KIRO FM’s Ross and Burbank Show, Peter Steinbrueck, the son of Space Needle design contributor Victor Steinbureck, said even though Space Needle origin legends involve a design sketch on a napkin, much of the credit for how the needle looks as it stands today should go to his father.

“He did more than a napkin sketch, let me say that,” said Steinbrueck speaking of the role of his father in the iconic design. “The napkin sketch story was actually Eddie Carlson, who was a developer businessman who happened to see a lollipop on a stick kind of idea from Stuttgart, Germany that he traced on a napkin. But the way the Space Needle looks today is much improved over that in my opinion.”

Victor Steinbrueck came onto the project, according to his son, when he was asked to assist John Graham & Company, the architectural firm working on the project.

“They had struggled for almost a year trying to come up with a sellable concept. An idea that would take hold that would symbolize Seattle, that would have a commanding presence there, and also make money,” said Steinbrueck.

The senior Steinbrueck was expected to bring some fresh, creative ideas to the project.

“He did that over the course of three months and 1,500 sketches I’m told,” said Steinbrueck, who still has a series of his father’s sketches that show the design’s evolution from his father’s original concept, that he said was inspired by a small wooden sculpture designed by David Lemon.

Steinbrueck said John Graham & Company had three specific goals in the design. They wanted it to evoke the space age. They wanted it to be iconic and symbolic of the area, and they wanted it to be profitable.

“I think it achieved all three of those goals that John Graham had set for it. It was profitable. It was very successful,” said Steinbrueck. “It continues to be so to this day, the 50th anniversary.”


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