History of PacSci

PacSci campus view with arches

Designed by Seattle-born architect Minoru Yamasaki, Pacific Science Center is a historic landmark of the City of Seattle. Learn more about PacSci’s history below.

History & Story of PacSci

Since its founding as the nation’s first science and technology center, PacSci has worked to expand access to science, serve as a vital resource for educators, and fuel discovery and experimentation as a vibrant community laboratory.

Yamasaki and others


Local architect Minoru Yamasaki is selected to design the U.S. Science Exhibit for the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle. Born in Seattle to Japanese immigrants, Yamasaki is a Garfield High School, University of Washington, and New York University alumnus.

February 1961

A radio signal transmitted from Washington, D.C. bounces off the moon and lands in Seattle to mark the official groundbreaking of the U.S. Science Pavilion.

PacSci opening ceremony

October 1962

After hosting millions to explore the wonders of science during the World’s Fair, the Science Pavilion is given new life as the not-for-profit Pacific Science Center, the nation’s first science and technology center.

Yamasaki on the cover of Time Magazine


Yamasaki, along with PacSci’s iconic arches and fountains, are featured on the cover of Time Magazine. Yamasaki is also chosen over 40 different architects to design the World Trade Center in New York City.

Black and white photo of the Science on Wheels van


PacSci’s Science on Wheels program is founded to bring the science center to school groups unable to afford the cost of visiting in person due to the energy crisis. What begins as a handful of Science Center staff transporting portable exhibits in their cars to local schools eventually grows into a fleet of vans reaching 150,000 students each year.

Construction of the Laser Dome


The Pacific Science Center Foundation receives the title to its buildings and grounds from the U.S. Government, on the condition that it must remain a science museum for the next 30 years. PacSci begins infrastructure improvements, including the renovation of Building 4 and the installation of laser capabilities.

Learn more about the largest and longest running Laser Dome in the world.

Guests attend a planetarium show


The Willard Smith Planetarium opens, allowing visitors to blast off to the edge of the universe or explore the solar system with live interactive shows.

Movie goers wearing 3D glasses in colorful theater seats


The original Eames Theater is remodeled to become the Eames IMAX Theater.


A $40 million capital campaign funds the addition of the Ackerley Family Exhibit Gallery, the Boeing IMAX Theater, the Tropical Butterfly House, the Kiewit Pavilion, the Seattle Rotary Discovery Labs, and the James Albert Claypool Memorial Garage.

Sidewalk through Mercer Slough


The Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center (MSEEC) opens in partnership with the City of Bellevue. This 320-acre stretch of pristine marshes, rivers, woods, and meadows allows urban visitors to explore the natural environment through a network of trails and streams and to learn about the science behind this fragile ecosystem.


Portal to the Public, an innovative program to connect current research and scientists with the community, is launched.

Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center


The MSEEC is expanded into a state-of-the art, LEED Gold-certified facility including classrooms, a wet lab, a specimen lab, and a tree house.

PacSci campus view with arches


Pacific Science Center is awarded the status of City of Seattle Landmark. The City of Seattle’s Landmarks Preservation Board unanimously voted for the designation, making PacSci one of the few Seattle buildings that meet all six designation criteria. Yamasaki’s designs will continue to bring “serenity, surprise, and delight” to all.


The original cedar-lined pools are refurbished and resealed to reduce water use. Portal to the Public is awarded the Roy L. Shafer Leading Edge Award by the Association of Science-Technology museums—the highest award bestowed by the international science museum field.

Aerial view of our arches


PacSci makes headlines again as it is considered one of Seattle’s most beautiful buildings by local architects, designers, and community members in a Pacific NW Magazine article. Yamasaki’s legacy lives on.

Educator Fatima hosting a virtual field trip


When COVID-19 hits, the PacSci team quickly develops digital service platforms, including Virtual Field Trips, to serve the community in new ways, using the crisis as a catalyst for innovation.

Seattle Kraken colors on the arches


PacSci partners with AWS and the Seattle Kraken to light up PacSci’s iconic arches on game days.