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Pacific Science Center is now a city landmark

Sen. Warren Magnuson speaks to the crowd gathered for the re-opening of the Pacific Science Center following the World’s Fair, Oct. 22, 1962. A model of the Mariner Space Craft is suspended above the podium.
A trip to the Pacific Science Center always felt like groovy time travel, with its sleek buildings of snow-white concrete. On Wednesday, Seattle decided it was a trip worth preserving and designated the Science Center a city landmark.

The city's Landmarks Preservation Board voted unanimously to give the 1962 World's Fair center official historic status, after finding it met all six criteria listed in landmark rules. That put the center in a rare category with the Space Needle.

In addition to bestowing bragging rights, the designation requires the non-profit, foundation-owned center to undergo historic reviews for any building changes. It also makes the center eligible for preservation funding for its aging buildings.

The board bequeathed official status to the center's original buildings, towers, walkways, pools and geodesic dome (now the Laser Dome Theater). Excluded were features added after the World's Fair, including the Boeing IMAX Theater, ticket kiosks and the Seattle Rotary Discovery Labs Building.

"Pacific Science Center is a vital community resource. As the stewards of this campus, we sought nomination and fully support and embrace landmark designation," Bryce Seidl, CEO and president of the Science Center, said in a statement.

"As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Science Center, we want to ensure that our next 50 years are as inspiring and engaging as the first." The center had nominated itself for landmark status.

The Science Center reflected the personal vision of renowned, Seattle-born architect Minoru Yamasaki, who had grown tired of bland, monotonous buildings of the Modernist movement at the time.

Instead, Yamasaki was inspired by the still beauty of the Taj Mahal and Katsura Palace in Japan. He liked the interplay of light, shadow and reflection in buildings.

  The Pacific Science Center (photo courtesy Pacific Science Center).
He talked of the "joy of surprise" in finding a peaceful courtyard after walking through a narrow alley, or in stumbling upon a garden of "raked white gravel, dazzling in the sunlight," after tiptoeing through a hushed Buddhist temple, he said in a 1963 interview in Time magazine.

Originally called the "United States Science Pavilion," the center consists of six white, nearly windowless buildings, adorned with Gothic arches made of concrete ribs. They surround a courtyard of minimalist reflecting pools and a collection of 100-foot arched towers.

Built to be the largest science exhibit ever assembled by the federal government, it opened to great fanfare at the World's Fair, which drew nearly 10 million visitors.

  The Pacific Science Center during the 1962 World's Fair (photo courtesy Pacific Science Center).

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