The History of Revolving Restaurants

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Paging through Invention & Technology last night, I came across a story on the history of revolving restaurants. The first one was built in Hawaii, but the one that really captured the country's imagination and spurred development was the one built into Seattle's Space Needle:

On opening day everything worked well except that the continuous rotation confused waiters and guests. Harry Mullikin, who was in charge of setting up the restaurant, commented, “When the waitress went into the kitchen she would come back out with no idea where her table had gone. Guests had the same problem. They would get up to go to the restroom but when they came back they couldn’t find their tables.” The dining area was eventually divided into four zones, with a color code for each. That still didn’t help guests who discovered that the purses and bags they had left on the stationary windowsills by their tables were no longer there. A change to slanted sills was recommended for future rotating restaurants....

The article dispelled my long-held belief that the entire structure rotated. It doesn't—instead, a doughnut-shaped platform rides on circular rails, carrying diners along with it at an almost imperceptible speed.

There are more than 100 such structures around the world, from Iraq and Iran to Finland and Japan. The most unlikely and ambitious location, however, would have been Pyongyang, North Korea, where an array of seven stacked restaurants were to be built in the now uncompleted Ryugyong Hotel. (See Wikipedia's comprehensive list of revolving restaurants.)

Photograph: Vancouver's Harbour Centre tower, which houses one of three revolving restaurants in the city. From iStockphoto.com

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