The public's response to the new facility was mixed. The building's modern design pleased some and disappointed others. Designed by two architectural firms from Honolulu and Tacoma, the building's round layout and conical roof were supposed to relate the structure to its mountain setting. Other visual design features included "the swooping, bough-like shape of the beams, the branching 'tree' columns, the 'switchback trail' ramps, and the sloped 'cliffs' of the stone base." To many people's way of thinking, however, the building did not harmonize with the landscape in the least. People complained that it looked like a satellite, pagoda, or flying saucer. Its weird, extraterrestrial effect was enhanced when Paradise was shrouded in fog, as was often the case. Or when snow still lay on the ground, people joked that the new visitor center looked like the Seattle Space Needle--up to its neck in snow. And when it became known that Senator Jackson had used his influence to get the Department of the Interior to contract with a Honolulu-based architectural firm to design the building, a legend grew among the park's devotees that the building had been designed for a site in the Hawaiian Islands but had been dumped on Mount Rainier instead. This was not true, however.
I must admit that I heard and repeated that claim about the building being designed for Hawaii myself! I had heard it was for the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.