AKA: Century 21 Exposition, Federal Science Center, Seattle, WA; Pacific Science Center, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - exhibition buildings - exposition buildings

Designers: Naramore, Bain, Brady, and Johanson, (NBBJ) (firm); Worthington and Skilling, Engineers (firm); Yamasaki, Minoru, and Associates (firm); William James Bain Sr. (architect); William James Bain Jr. (architect); Clifton J. Brady (architect); Perry Bertil Johanson (architect); Floyd Archibald Naramore (architect); Leslie Earl Robertson (engineer); John Bower Skilling (structural engineer); Harold L. Worthington (structural engineer); Minoru Yamasaki (architect)

Dates: constructed 1959-1962

2 stories

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200 2nd Avenue North
Seattle, WA 98109-4816

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Building History

Seattle native Minoru Yamasaki (1912-1986) designed the United States Science Pavilion in the wake of Sputnik's launch in 1957 which caused waves of anxiety throughout the US. Many worried that America lagged behind the Soviets in hard science knowledge, and Warren Magnuson (1905-1989), WA's longtime US Senator, obtained money to build this pavilion emphasizing the country's commitment to science education. Yamasaki originally considered building the Science Center as a 110-foot-high tower, but this idea was discarded after the decision was made to build the 625-foot Space Needle. Instead, he recalled the Swedish Pavilion at the 1939 New York World's Fair, which was organized around a small garden. Utliizing this idea, he configured the Federal Science Pavilion as a group of five interconnected buildings enclosing a courtyard with reflecting pools, the ensemble covering about 7 acres. The pavilions were of precast concrete. The trademark five arched tower outside the building rose to 110 feet. At the Center, Yamasaki first collaborated with a group of outstanding, Seattle-based engineers in the firm of Worthington and Skilling, including Jack Christiansen (1927-2017), John Skilling (1921-1998) and Leslie E. Robertson (1928-2021). Yamasaki would continue work on a series of structurally innovative buildings with their firm, including the IBM Building, Seattle, WA, 1962-1964, the World Trade Center Towers I and II, New York, NY, 1966-1973, Century Plaza Towers, Century City, Los Angeles, CA, 1968-1975 and the Rainier Bank Tower, Seattle, WA, 1972-1977.

Building Notes

The Pacific Science Center featured hands-on science exhibits, animals, and two IMAX movies. The Syracuse University Library, Special Collections Research Center, has a small collection of Minoru Yamasaki's papers (.5 linear feet), covering the years 1961-1965; they are described as: "Papers of the artist, architect. Includes project files with photographs and working papers, undated manuscripts, and other material. Projects include Dhahran Air Terminal in Saudi Arabia, the United States Pavilion at the World's Fair in Seattle, Washington, and the World Trade Center in New York City." The historic preservation organization, Historic Seattle, presented the Pacific Science Center its "Exemplary Stewardship" award in 2012. Tel: 206.443.2001 (2014).

The Gothic/Islamic blind tracery detailing of the Science Center's exterior anticipated comparable motifs at the New York World Trade Center at the end of the 1960s.


The Seattle architectural firm NBBJ supervised the PACCAR IMAX Theatre renovation, working with Rafn Company, building contractors. The Nelson Electric Company designed the acoustics of the interior. The McKinstry Company, building contractors, restored the Science Center's reflecting pools. The center's glass elevator and walkway was designed by Mulvanny G2 Architects working with Ferguson Construction.

PCAD id: 5973