The Seattle World’s Fair in 2012

In 1962, Seattle introduced the world to the Space Needle and Belgian waffles. We asked Seattle experts to imagine a 2012 version.

January 20, 2012 Published in the February 2012 issue of Seattle Met

The Sea Center

Peter Steinbrueck
Architect and Design Consultant

“It’s the Sea Center—the name is kind of reminiscent of ‘Seattle Center,’ ” says Peter Steinbrueck of the edifice he imagines on the city’s waterfront. Atop what is currently the Washington State ferry docks, Steinbrueck sees a cultural center, transportation plaza, and city icon, all under one dramatic roof. It would complement the Space Needle that his father, Victor, helped design, but be more of a presence in city dwellers’ daily lives. “We’d expect millions of people to use this terminal,” he says. “It’s recalling sea animals and birds, and gives a soaring feel that is kind of uplifting—thinking positively about the future, as we have before.”

Its folded top evokes the curves of a surfacing blue whale and the wings of a seabird—much how the Sydney Opera House recalls a shell. “It’s intended to be a counterpoint to the towers behind it. Even, perhaps, luminescent,” he says. “I would love the whole building to be a glowing beacon. Like creatures in the sea, like jellyfish.” The window walls are inspired by a blue whale’s baleen, strung with wires that would resonate in the winds off Elliott Bay. On the deck a blue whale skeleton—Steinbrueck hasn’t said where he’d find such a thing—emphasizes Seattle’s link to sea life.

Steinbrueck hasn’t forgotten about the car ferries that inhabit the space at present, but thinks they would be better served, trafficwise, at Pier 91. Meanwhile, the Sea Center would cater to commuters on foot: “It’ll have passenger ferries, high-speed ones that can travel at 50 miles per hour and carry hundreds of people from Olympia to Port Angeles, more efficiently and in less-polluting ways. They’d be boats that are built right here in the Northwest, recalling the mosquito fleet of the past.” Floatplanes and a waterfront tram system would make the spot a “multimodal transportation hub.”

The Sea Center’s water-facing decks would be home to a longboat canoe that celebrates Seattle’s native tradition. “It’s pretty shameful that we don’t have a comprehensive Northwest Indian museum or cultural center in Seattle to speak of, and this could be that,” he says. The shores of Seattle were once summer fishing villages, he notes, and a museum could both draw tourists and encourage commuters to linger.

The Food: Vegetable Caviar

Tom Douglas
Chef and Restaurateur

“The World’s Fair is about surprising people, having some fun with food,” says Tom Douglas. “But it’s quite hilarious to think that Belgian waffles were the food of the future back in the ’60s.” In 2012, he imagines, we’d serve Douglas fir “caviar.”

His idea of vegetable caviar comes largely from Nathan Myhrvold’s Modernist Cuisine cookbook. “There’s bound to be no caviar in our future except farm raised, so vegetable versions are a fun way to explore different flavors,” says Douglas. And, of course, these orbs of veggie essence will be sourced from local farms. “Now that’s an expectation. I don’t think people even think about it…they just assume it.”

Brock Johnson, head chef at Douglas’s Dahlia Lounge, showed us how veggie caviar would be served: as green gel globules of Douglas fir heaped on an oyster. “Tastes like a Christmas tree,” Johnson says. The process is as futuristic as the Science Pavilion: Sodium alginate and tree-needle broth are dropped into a calcium chloride solution. Inside the outer shell, the broth stays liquid. The electric green color—think the shade on a Mariners uniform—comes from food coloring.

Johnson traces the oyster’s origin back to southern Hood Canal, “where these long fingers of water go out into the forest.” Chanterelles, too, would be locally foraged. The handheld treat is “the Northwest, distilled down into a single bite,” he says.

 The Exhibits

John Findlay
Professor and Associate Chair of Pacific Northwest History, University of Washington

“Compared to the 1960s, a modern world’s fair would have a lot more life sciences. Seattle is a place for global health and public health. We have companies like Immunex or Dendreon, and companies that spun off from UW or the Hutch.”

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