Karen Olson, Chief Marketing Officer, Space Needle Corporation & Blair Payson, AIA, LEED® AP, Principal at Olson Kundig, “Exciting Changes at the Space Needle!”
Karen Olson is the Chief Marketing Officer of the Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass. An innovator who has spent more than 25 years developing compelling customer experiences, Karen has received national attention for launching a series of digital experiences at the Space Needle, to help keep its landmark experience tech-forward, in the news and, more importantly, in the hearts and minds of its guests. These digital experiences use augmented reality, virtual reality, and clever interactive development design to continue to ignite the imagination of what’s possible, and keep the Space Needle’s experience futurist.
Most recently, Karen was instrumental in the $100M historic renovation of the Space Needle. The “spacelift” has completely transformed the top of this icon, with entire walls, barriers, and even floors being replaced by clear structural glass, to dramatically expand views. Whether leaning into the breathtaking views on our unique Skyriser glass benches or stepping out onto The Loupe, the world’s first and only revolving glass floor, visitors will be thrilled by this unforgettable experience. More than 50 companies and experts in specialties like wind, seismic, acoustics, steel, and glass came together from around the world to plan and complete one of the most complex construction projects in the region, which truly felt like building in space.
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Blair Payson joined Olson Kundig in 2004 and has worked on both architectural and exhibit design projects, including the Century Project for the Space Needle, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center, and [storefront] Olson Kundig, as well as several residential projects across the Western United States and Mexico.
A maker at heart, Blair is an architect who revels in the details. From large cultural projects to temporary design interventions, Blair is able to distill large, complex projects into distinct culminating moments. Lately, Blair’s research has taken him on site visits to a subterranean cavern deep underground in one week to hundreds of feet above an urban landscape the next. This demonstrates not only the range of Blair’s interests, but also his proclivity towards risk and experimentation.
Blair holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Rice University, and he is the recipient of several design awards for his work on the Gates Foundation Visitor Center, among other projects.