The World Event Which Launched Seattle Into a Postmodern Orbit, 50 Years Ago Today.

Photos and essay by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights – Third Addition

Content includes: Blended learning, critical think, Seattle Postmodern History, (Video Links – MGM film segments with Elvis Presly at Seattle’s World Fair, postmodern video of early NASA rocket launches & spacewalks, video defining “postmodernism”)  (Web links, history org feature of Century 21 Seattle’s World’s Fair & Architect Japanese American Minoru Yamasaki)

On this day, April 21st, 1962, Seattle’s Century 21 World’s Fair opened the doors for its national and international visitors.  Eventually, almost 10 million guests attended the entire event to — “imagine a futuristic tomorrow,” which promised technological wonders for improved living and for promoting world harmony.

Century 21 Fair Exposition Logo.

The 1851 London World’s Fair, which took place in London’s  Crystal Palace, was the vanguard of this type of global gathering.  The industrial age was in a mature stage of development, offering new and exciting forms of technologies. In this era, people became aware of time-and-space being compressed — due to steam-power’s ability to hasten long-distance travel with the locomotive and steamship.  As the World’s people experience shrinking obstacles towards bringing distant nations and cultures together—the creation of global fairs was created to promote industrial development and international exhibits.

Queen Victoria opens the first international World's Fare in 1851. ( Image in public domain )

Queen Victoria opens the first international World’s Fair in 1851. ( Image in public domain )

Seattle’s first World’s fair — Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition in 1909, occurred near the peak of an industrial age, which helped Seattle obtain national name recognition.

The Space Needle, an iconic landmark from Seattle’s 1962 Century 21 World’s Fair.

Significantly, the Century 21 World’s Fair was created in an emerging postmodern era. The Fair was remarkably successful with a number of tangible results, notably: it was one of the select few world event of its kind, which made a profit and most importantly, it lifted Seattle out of its perceived provincial setting, and placed it onto a world stage. The timing was ideal for the city’s economic development trajectory.  With Boeing Aerospace as a Seattle-based company, it benefited from the international exposure, at a time when the postmodern world began to embrace jet travel for global access.

Seattle Center with Mount Rainier in Background.

Optimism and enthusiasm associated with the 1962 World’s Fair was authentic, however, in the big picture, a dark shadow was growing with super-power tensions. As the cold war thermometer was nearing a boiling point, a serious situation was escalating.  President Kennedy’s excuse of having a cold for not attending the Century 21 closing ceremony in October was a ruse — actually his efforts for de-escalating the Cuban Missile Crisis were urgently required.  As a result of averting a nuclear war over Cuban missiles, President Kennedy successfully presided over the United States, United Kingdom and Soviet Union’s signing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in  the following year of 1963.

Ironically, it was the Soviet Union, which created the theme of science for Seattle’s Century 21 World’s Fair. On October 4, 1957 the Russians launched Sputnik, the first orbiting man-made satellite, which gave them an edge in space development. With the Soviet’s apparent satellite success, Americans feared they were falling behind in science and technology; as a result of tech envy, a theme of science became the framework for Seattle’s Worlds Fair.  From this time forward, the U.S. Set goals to be leaders in space exploration and technology development.

Elliott Bay with Seattle Center and Mount Baker in background.

The shock-wave effect created by Sputnik, awoke America from its complacency of 1950s idealism.  Now, a sense of urgency was created  in looking for optimism within the futuristic Technology of tomorrow.  This quest for all things technological, was the fuel which Seattle used for launching its World’s Fair.  Late in 1957, the title: Seattle Century 21 World’s Fair was selected as the brand name to help promote America’s vision of optimism in a technological future.  To champion this cause, Albert Rossellini, Washington State Governor from 1956 to 1965, selected an exceptional group of business and civic leaders for a commission which successfully acquired local and national financing for the Seattle World’s Fair.

Governor Albert Rossellini, on Veteran’s Day 1961.

Governor Rossellini, a Pacific Northwest civic titan, had the vision which helped develop the region into a world-class, economic dynamo.  The Century 21 World’s Fair, along with the state’s modern transportation infrastructure , and post secondary education developments are just a few examples of Albert Rossellini legacy. One more fascinating contribution from Governor Rossellini was his contribution in bringing the “King of Rock and Roll” to Seattle’s World Fair. Albert Rossellini actually pitched the idea to MGM, for making a movie with Elvis Presley (click on the video link ↓ )  It Happened at the World’s Fair — (Movie Clip) Happy Ending  Enlisting Elvis, a mega superstar, to help promote the Fair in a movie was a brilliant marketing move, with true creative vision!

Most impressive icons of the Century 21 Fair are the Space Needle and Monorail, which went on to become revered Seattle landmarks and its biggest tourist attractions.

The ever popular Seattle Monorail is gliding past Paul Allen’s EMP building.

Internationally, the Space Needle is a more recognizable symbol of Seattle, than the city’s actual name or any other single reference.

The inspiration for the Space Tower as it was initially called, came from a napkin sketch by C21 chairman, Eddie Carlson of a 400’ TV Tower with a restaurant in Stuttgart Germany.  The idea of a tower with a “flying-saucer” shaped restaurant at the top, was presented to architect John Graham, who added the concept of a rotating restaurant to allow viewers a continuous change of panoramic views.  Victor Steinbrueck, professor of architecture at the University of Washington and architect John Ridley produced concept sketches which featured an elegant tripod, crowned with a saucer structure observation deck.

Minoru Yamasaki, a first-generation Japanese American, born in Seattle, was the main architect, along with Seattle’s NBBJ Architects chosen in designing  the U.S. Science Pavilion, today’s Pacific Science Center.

Minoru Yamasaki’s innovative, graceful design was also used for Seattle’s most daring piece of architecture, the Rainier Tower, supported by a gravity defying inverted pedestal!

Another of Minoru’s Emerald City designs is the IBM Building, used as a model for the New York City twin tower design (destroyed in the 2001 terrorist attacks.)  The architectural style of the Pacific Science Center and NYC twin towers is “gothic modernism,” which is found in most of Minoru’s designs (please see examples of Gothic modernistic elements in the photographs be low.)

Seattle IBM Building designed by Minoru Yamasaki, was used as the model for NYC WTC Twin Towers. An example of Yamasaki’s “gothic modernism” style.

 

During the summer of the World’s Fair opening, my parents took me to experience the exposition. Although I was very young while attending… I clearly recall the impressions of wonder from seeing the futuristic architecture and dynamic exhibits.  The theme of life in the 21st century, awoke my imagination and interest in science technology at an early age, which still continues to this day in the form of stories, essays and multimedia work, which I share with you now. ~

Twilight view of Space Needle and Pacific Science Center.

A must see postmodern era video featuring the beginnings of the space race. Click on link below. ↓

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfVfRWv7igg 

What is postmodernism video (click on video link below ↓)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oL8MhYq9owo 

HistoryLink to Century 21 — The 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, Part 1 ( Click on link below ↓)

http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&File_Id=2290

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The Day-After 9/11…Ten Years After

Photos and text by: David Johanson Vasquez  © All Rights Reserved

Probably anyone reading this essay will never forget what they were doing on the day of and the following day-after the World Trade Center attack of 9/11.

An early start on a tragic morning—On September 11, 2001,  I got up early at 5:00 a.m. to begin packing for my fiancé and I’s flight from Seattle to Honolulu. After feeding the cats I made a cup of coffee, while listening to the morning news. It took a moment to register that there was a serious event taking place in New York City. I changed the channel… just to make sure there wasn’t some misreporting of what was happening.  In shock, I moved to wake my fiancé—informing her of something really bad was going to the east coast. We held each other while watching the news, then we began making phone calls to family and friends to see if they were watching what had just happened.

My memory accelerated into reverse, towards my first trip to New York City in 1998.  A cousin had taken me on a well planned tour of Lower Manhattan, where we visited the ‘”Twin Towers” to gain a most fantastic view of the City. Now… I kept wondering if my family and friends were okay in Manhattan… what was going on in their lives at this moment? More news reports of other horrible attacks, then a FAA directive announcement to recall and ground all flights in transit immediately. The information was approaching sensory overload. This situation was escalating into something extremely serious, chances were our wedding plans would be forced to hold, perhaps even indefinitely.

The eerie sound of silence—As evening approached, the directive to ground all aircraft began to create an eerie feeling. Our home, which we purchased just a few months before, is located north of Seattle in the city of Everett. Paine Field, a major regional airport is within a couple of miles of our home and Boeing assembles commercial aircraft there, including the Jumbo 747 as well as its 767 airliner, which were used in the terrorist attacks earlier that day.

What was so strange, was the silence of not hearing any aircraft sounds going overhead.  This somber stillness created a feeling straight out of a science fiction movie—in fact I notice a sustained absence of  any sounds; no car noise or people outside talking — as if the world was standing still within a vacuum. I forced myself from thinking… the years when I was a Boeing photographer, if I had photographed one of the 767 aircraft during its production cycle,  which had been used in the terrorist attacks.

Suspended animation — As the afternoon turned into evening, fighter jets appeared in the sky, pacing back and forth like a cat waiting to pounce on its pray. Later as night approached we could hear the steady high altitude drone of bombers and military transport aircraft flying towards Canadian airspace—heading north for an apparent polar route to reach intended deployments; it was obvious now, our nation was going to war.

I stayed up late to see if there would be other information, to let us know if airline flights were to resume. Having slept very little, I got up before light, preparing to depart for our pre-wedding flight to Honolulu.  As dawn arrived there was no definite news as to if flights would be resuming again; so we picked up my stepdaughter Dena, her husband Dave and son to go to the airport.

On the drive to Seattle/Tacoma International Airport, I recall our grandson Jacob asking why was our nation attacked, but none of us had an answer to offer which made sense.  Arriving at the airport was that returning feeling of, stepping into a set of some sci-fi feature, troops and police packing machine guns were on sentry;  just about everyone we saw looked like they were in a daze. One of my best friends I had known since we first met as Boeing photographers, came up and gave us the airline flight status. Rick and his wife Kathy had arrived the day before, to fly out for our wedding, but the 9/11 attacks halted all flights before they could board their plane.

It now was clear, no one would be flying for the foreseeable future, so we had our party of family and friends meet us at a nearby restaurant for a dialogue on an action plan. We decide to try postponing our wedding for one month, then, hopefully all of us would be able to fly out to Hawaii for our planned ceremony.

The resumed flight to paradise — In October we followed through with our wedding plans.  Our ceremony took place outside of Honolulu, on a beach, which was used in a famous kissing scene in the 1953 classic: “From Here to Eternity,” — starring Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr. A month after the 9/11 attacks, we were some of the first travelers to arrive in Hawaii from the mainland.  The hotel’s front desk shared with us — how for the first few days following the attacks, most tourist did not leave their rooms for days… they just wanted to watch any news updates from television.

The shadow of judgement—The weeks following 9/11, I recall experiencing some undue scrutiny from a few strangers who gave hostile stares at me, due to my “Mediterranean appearance.” Part of my family heritage is Panamanian and the other Swedish; so if someone was judgmental and didn’t know anything about my background  — they might ignorantly try to project they’re suspicious spotlight onto me. We often forget of this misguided act of— “terrorism in the name of religion” — no one has suffered more wrongful deaths and injury than innocent Arab people, from many nations of the world.  The terrorist attacks were carried out by an extremely small group of people… representing their own narrow, hate consuming judgments towards the United States.  Blind-ignorance about our Nation’s true values, misguided the terrorist to believe attacks would succeed in crushing our will and faith. Actually, the 9/11 attacks created the opposite effect of what the Islamic Fascist’s intended goals were— it challenged us as a Nation to become a united people and use our collective-will to counter the terrorist’s misanthropic agenda.

Tour of tower two—In my 1998 tour of the World Trade Center’s tower two, I was first impressed with a beautiful water fountain sculpture at the base of the towers. Looking directly upwards, over a thousand feet towards the blue sky, the vertical lines of the twin towers appeared to merge together.

          

My cousin, Randy and I entered the towers to register for a trip to the Top of the World Observatory… we were clustered together with a group of about 20 people. All of us were going to the top floors, but first, a digital photo was taken of our group. Three uniformed security personnel were focused in on the monitors, studying the biometric photos, which were just taken of our group. Five years before, in 1993 the first terrorist attacks on the twin tower were carried out.  Since those previous attacks, the port authority used digital biometric surveillance in efforts for spotting terrorist attempting reconnaissance for another attack.

A community within itself—Once we de-boarded from a  thousand foot elevator ride to the 107th floor, I was impressed with a feeling of energy created by simultaneous activity and interaction. It was like a community within itself, with so many people of different nationalities speaking a variety of languages. I also recall a splendid collection of art on the walls, gift shops, information kiosk and exhibit displays.  Wonderful aromas of gourmet food wafted through the hallways from the famous “Windows of the World” restaurant, which had until the 2001 attacks, the highest-grossing revenue in the United States.     

A view from top of the world— Stepping onto the 110 floors “Top of the World” observation deck gave a feeling of sensory overload—a stunning, 360 degree panorama view of the surrounding mega metropolis was a powerful encounter. Just the week before, as I flew over New York City’s Manhattan districts, I experience something totally new from flying over an urban center. My impression was the city of New York is literally, a living entity in its own right. The metropolis’ massive size, density and texture appeared to have a unique personality… a consciousness of its own, which I wasn’t expecting to encounter.  Back on the observation deck, it was a photographer’s paradise for incredible aerial views of the City’s iconic architecture.

Twin towers architectural design—Completed in 1973, the twin towers were designed by a Seattle born architectMinoru Yamasaki was a first-generation Japanese American, whose innovative architecture style was used to design—The Pacific Science Center, for “The Century 21 Exposition/1962 Seattle Worlds Fair,” which shares similar design elements with the twin towers. Yamasaki also designed one of Seattle’s most daring pieces of architecture— the Rainier Tower, which is supported by a gravity defying, inverted pedestal! One more connection with the twin towers and Seattle is the architect’s, IBM Building design, which was used as a model for the NYC twin tower design. The twin towers architectural style is gothic modernism which can be seen used in most of Minoru’s designs (please see examples of gothic modernism elements in the photographs below.)

          

Inspiration found from the rising phoenix— It’s nearly 9:00 p.m. PDT on September 10th, as I’m finishing up my writing for the photo essay; “The Day After 9/11 – Ten Years After.”  I just finished watching an unexpected, major fireworks display, from our home’s second story window. It was coming from the town of Mukilteo, which is on Puget Sound, next to the Boeing Plant and Paine Field Airport.  Watching the pyrotechnic display, the words of our national anthem came to mind. In an instant, came an insight for me… a silver lining taken from our nation’s tragic sacrifice—illuminating a message from the darkness, like a powerful roman candle roaring upwards to the heavens as it releases spectacular multicolored content.

Despite a tragic attack, which Francis Scott Key refers to in tribute anthem for our country—  we, as in the spirit of our nation’s flag, are still here, firmly remaining strong and defiant.  Now, as New York City’s Freedom Towers are nearing completion, with their foundation next to the footprint of those former shinning twin towers, the spirit of our Nation is rising from the tragic ashes… to reach towards the heavens, once again.  ~

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