A Brief History of Buildings That Spin

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A Brief History of Buildings That Spin

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A Brief History of Buildings That Spin

It wasn’t just the recipes that were faddish. The 1960s were halcyon times for restaurant experiences that hold almost no appeal today, from the dine-o-mat to the drive-in diner. But one curious product of this era had true staying power: the revolving restaurant.

These spinning buildings are an institution that’s enjoyed a surprisingly long life—and a recent rebirth across cities in Asia and the Middle East. So where, and when, did it all begin?

The revolving restaurant addressed some apparently primal desire to dine at a table while moving; if you couldn’t walk and chew gum, you could rotate and eat Gulf Prawns. It seems garishly and unmistakably American—after all, the received its clearest early outline via the fertile mind of Norman Bel Geddes. (photo above)

But the revolving restaurant’s debut actually occurred in Germany, with its first iteration appearing in 1959 in Stuttgart. Civic authorities constructing a television tower were looking for some additional means to wring use from the building, and they found it in food. They put a restaurant in the tower, and in the spirit of postwar West German economic hubris, the Stuttgart Fernsehturm would turn—offering at-table views of not merely one but every possible vista. And the model caught on. []

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