After living in this city for 16 years, I finally have a favorite view of the Space Needle. It’s from the alley-facing windows of Tacos Chukis, a Mexico City-style street food joint tucked upstairs in the back of the Broadway Alley mini-mall. It’s not the most picturesque or well-placed view of the Needle, but I believe it’s the best.
I’m pretty ambivalent about the Space Needle. On one hand, it serves as an instantly recognizable icon elevating Seattle above similarly sized snoozevilles like Milwaukee and Sacramento. It projects the vibe of a futuristic, jet-propelled metropolis instead of the traffic-choked gentrification combat zone we’ve become.
The Needle is good branding; it was emblazoned on the Sonics logo for 41 seasons and the title card of Frasier for eleven. It gives my folks in Florida something to picture when they think about where I live (take a left at Frasier’s condo and head southeast). As far as landmarks go it’s relatively benign: abstract, unique and forward-looking.
On the other hand, the more you know about the Space Needle the less appealing it becomes. Despite the space this oversized swizzle stick occupies in our psychic geography, it’s a private, for-profit structure owned by wealthy union-busting Republicans, the same folks who are building the $210 million new youth jail nobody wants. The Needle represents a long line of audacious tycoons treating the city as their toy box, altering its image as they see fit (or erasing it, in the case of Howard Schultz and the Sonics).
Still, the Needle can be a bit much. If I were in charge I wouldn’t necessarily demolish it, but I also wouldn’t lift a finger to preserve its sightlines. It’s fine, whatever; let’s just not make too big a deal of it.
This is why my favorite view of the Needle is from the west-facing windows of Tacos Chukis on Broadway. From that tucked-away little taqueria, gazing across a back alley parking lot and a stretch of Harvard, you can see the familiar flying saucer beanie barely peering over the top of a four-story apartment building; civic symbol as peeping Tom. This vantage point reduces it to a more acceptable scale, to just another common element of the cityscape, like a rooftop exhaust vent.
It’s the quintessential proletarian view of the Space Needle: an outdated figurehead hovering modestly in the distance with delicious, inexpensive tacos and multistory housing in the foreground.