The Atomium restored
2006 at 01.59 am posted by Veerle Pieters
France has its Eiffel Tower and we Belgians have our Atomium, a replica of an iron molecule with nine aluminum spheres. It was built for the World Fair of 1958 in Belgium. Its engineer André Waterkeyn came up with the idea in 1954 to celebrate scientific progress. The event was the first after the New York world fair and the first world fair for Belgium since 1935.
Expo 58 opened its doors to the public on April 17th and lasted 6 months until October 19th of 1958. below are some of the original posters. I love the 50’s vintage look.
Place to be was the Heysel site, a park on the northern outskirts of Brussels. 52 countries participated with more than 150 pavilions. The central theme was “A world view - A new humanism” Expo 58 had more then than 41 million visitors from all over the world.
Now back to the Atomium, an emblem of an industrial boom after the war in Belgium and optimism about nuclear energy. During the expo visitors could travel the tubes that connect the spheres to see an exhibition called Atom Equals Hope.After the World fair ended people are still interested in the strange silhouette and it became a touristic attraction partly due to its size and weight. It weights 2.400 Metric tons and its height is 102 metres/335 ft. The Spheres have a diameter of 18 metres /59ft.
Over the years many ideas or roles came to life such as a casino or a museum dedicated to the Belgian cartoon character Tintin. Like with many things in life the future became insecure when politicians were campaigning to demolish it because of the fear of renovation costs. Luckily common sense prevailed and a nonprofit save-the-Atomium group was founded. They sold 1,000 1,8 metres/6 foot limited edition triangular pieces for 1000 Euro each. So they started with a budget of 1 million Euro and the rest was covered by the city of Brussels, the Belgian government and private donations. The renovation budget was a 27 million Euro.
To get all this done 600 laborers worked non-stop for about 22 months to rebuild it piece by piece. It took rope specialists from around the world to do the outside work. The Atomium now has space for art exhibitions, a special party space, an observation gallery, a children’s sphere and meeting rooms. Lighting in the escalators and stairs is designed by Ingo Maurer. There is also an elevator with a glass ceiling that leads to the new upscale restaurant.
The party space sphere has a ceiling fixture with a suspended fiberglass-and-aluminum plate, 4 metres/14 feet in diameter and is lighted with a cobalt halo. Around the fixture are eleven small plastic human figures that hover like astronauts around a spacecraft. In the children’s sphere you’ll find a molecule-like structure using 30 soft polyurethane balls to represent H2O, the formula for water. It was designed by Alicia Framis, a Spanish artist that was inspired by the rainy weather in Brussels. Nice :-)