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Slight Decline with Brett Hamil | My Favorite View of the Space Needle

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.38.59 AMAfter 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).

Nevertheless, the Needle is neat to look at, and that’s gotta count for something (ask MoPOP). Especially in foggy weather or when lightning strikes it.

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.needleview

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.

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9 thoughts on “Slight Decline with Brett Hamil | My Favorite View of the Space Needle

  1. The Space Needle is a building. Like the juvenile jail. There is nothing inherently wrong with either, except in the minds of people who want to make false equivalencies for personal, financial, or political reasons.

    Lots of people like the Space Needle, as its attendance numbers indicate. Lots of people saw the need for a new Juvenile jail, as the election results showed. So I really don’t get what the point of this piece was.

    And I’m sure if he just waits a few years, that view will be gone, and he won’t have to look at the Space Needle anymore. Win-win!

    • People voted for a “Children and Family Justice Center,” which had the word “detention” buried deep in the description.
      And a jail is just a building like Minidoka in the 40s was just a campground.

      But the Space Needle is cool, especially when it just shows up unexpectedly like that view.

    • It’s nice to know that you think people are really that dumb, fruitbat. And your comparison of the replacement of a outdated juvenile detention facility to the interment of completely innocent Japanese Americans during WWII is patently ridiculous. You should be ashamed of yourself.

  2. I live 2 buildings from this parking lot, and I get the same view, in winter months only. As soon as the trees regrow their leaves the view is gone. It was definitely a nice surprise my first winter here to unexpectedly see it out my window one day.

  3. I’m not sure why the author of this article thinks that the owners of the Space Needle have anything at all to do with the proposed new youth jail, or that “nobody wants” the proposed facility… was funded by a 55-45% vote of the people, so obviously a lot of people do want it.

    It seems he is trying to make some leftist political points by using very doubtful assertions.

  4. Very engaging writing. I hope you write here again. And I would ask that the green hand drawn arrow pointing at the Space Needle become a fixture in the sky. Seems fitting for something boring yet garish.

  5. I remember Seattle Center of the early 70s: the Bubbleator, the Flight to Mars, the gondola lifts and the (incredibly unsafe) International Fountain. I always loved the Space Needle. I thought it was really cool and imagined 70s King Kong scaling it to battle helicopters (a giant ape could totally climb it, no problem).
    Also, it amuses me that for a town famous for heroin use, our internationally-recognized landmark is a giant needle. Heh.