The Atomium is to Brussels what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. Built as a temporary structure for a World’s Fair, but becoming a landmark for the city. But be careful, it’s dangerous, for a specific reason.
I visited the Atomium in October 2021, when Maxime and Sydney came from Switzerland. These railway colleagues from SBB-CFF-FFS were one day in Belgium, from their Netherlands vacation. I showed them around. We started with the Atomium.
What is the Atomium?
The Atomium was originally constructed for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, better known as Expo 58. It is located on the Heysel/Heizel Plateau in Laeken, in the northern part Brussels.
The Atomium was designed by civil engineer André Waterkeyn and architects André and Jean Polak. It’s 102 metres or 335 feet tall. There are nine 18-metre-diameter (59 ft) stainless steel clad spheres are connected in the shape of a unit cell that could represent an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times.
Large tubes containing stairs, escalators or a lift connect the spheres to each other.
The top sphere includes a restaurant which has a panoramic view of Brussels. It was closed when we were there. COVID-19 or just the time of day? Not sure.
The Atomium was designed to last six months and was not destined to survive the World’s Fair. But is was popular, as it embodied the 50s feel of scientific advancement and technical optimism. Its destruction was therefore postponed year after year, until the city’s authorities decided to keep it. However, for thirty years, little maintenance work was done.
building was completely renovated between 2004 and 2006 by the companies Jacques Delens and BESIX. The the aluminium was replaced by stainless steel.
Still, some spheres are not accessible to the public.
Those who are open, are used as a museum, as event space and as tourist attraction.
The panorama is nice, especially on a fair weather day. There’s an exhibition on the Exhibition and there are light and sound effects on the escalators.
The Atomium is something you should do do once or so in your life and / or when you have visitors over.
For a long time, you couldn’t use an image of the Atomium. The Atomium asbl copyright statement is defiant, even bullying. Luckily, since 2016 Belgium eventually adopted a Right of Panorama.
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