Brussels World and International Exhibition 1958 - Expo58

Review of the world for a more human world

April 17, 1958 - October 19, 1958

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Atomium at the Exhibition Expo Brussels 1958

© Expo58

Architect(s) : A. et J. Polak, Inventeur : A. Waterkeyn

This gigantic edifice, the centre of the Exhibition, expressed the audacity of an era that confronted the destiny of Man with the most terrible secrets of the Universe.

From time immemorial, people have wanted to express their intense desire for elevation in a climbing structure: towers, pyramids, belfries, cathedrals. Every Universal Exhibition that has embodied the impetus of an era has sought to defy the laws of gravity or technology: Crystal Palace (London 1851); Eiffel Tower (Paris 1889)...

In building the Atomium, the promoters wanted to demonstrate the possibilities of metal. This building, whose construction posed totally new problems, is a cry of hope.

Nuclear energy can be a saviour, if mankind so wishes, such is the message of this monumental work.

Atomium: an expression that is as spiritual as it is material, for it is synonymous with energy, combat and the will to win.

The Atomium is a metal elemental crystal, magnified 150 billion times.

The 9 spheres form a centred cube, placed on one of its corners.

The construction is 102 m high.

The spheres, 18 m in diameter, are connected by tubes 3 m in diameter and 29 m in length. The framework of the spheres and the tubes are made of high-strength special steel.

The shiny coating of the spheres is an aluminium alloy.

The bipods supporting the building each weigh 100 tonnes. The whole construction weighs 2,400 tons.

The spheres contain large air-conditioned rooms.

At night, points of light revolve around the spheres to represent the movement of electrons around the nucleus of the atom.

You enter the Atomium through the circular reception pavilion, on which the base sphere seems to rest. From here, a high-speed lift through the central column takes you to the top sphere in less than 25 seconds; 400-500 people an hour can reach the highest point of the exhibition.

The upper half of the Atomium is equipped with viewing points. In the upper sphere there is also a restaurant.

Six spheres of the Atomium are accessible.

Escalators operate between the base sphere, one of the lower side spheres, and the central sphere. They have a total capacity of 2 to 3,000 people per hour. The base sphere, two of the lower spheres, and the central sphere were assigned to the exhibition of peaceful applications of nuclear energy.

The third lower side sphere was a brewery.

You go down the stairs in the tubes and bipods.

These have 160 steps.

The science exhibition was attended by the USA, Germany, Italy and Belgium.

It was a collection of technical exhibitions, each with its own character, without an overall programme established by mutual agreement between the participants.


When you entered the Atomium's reception pavilion, you felt a happy and stimulating impression produced by the decoration, with its optimistic shapes and colours.

A crown suspended from the ceiling governed the arrangement of polyhedral elements that alternated with large panels where photos, drawings and texts exalted the general theme: "Atom = Hope".

A model of the core of the BR-3 nuclear reactor illustrated the operation of the first Belgian atomic power station, which was installed in Mol.

Among other devices, a smaller radioactive iodine production cell, similar to the one in Mol, was shown, which operated using a beige patent from the Centre d'Etude de l'Energie Nucléaire.

Continuous colour slide projections allowed you to see the many applications of radioactive isotopes in industry, medicine, biology, agriculture, etc. and the achievements already made in Belgium in this sector.

The visit to this pavilion showed the hope that the atom will bring a tangible improvement in the well-being and standard of living of our populations.


The basic sphere of the Atomium was occupied by the Nuclear Energy groups of the Belgian section and the Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi section.

These groups brought together the main organisations interested in the peaceful development of atomic energy.

The presentation made by these groups was intended to illustrate the immense resources that flowed from the fission of the atom and the marvellous prospects that they held out for improving the well-being of humanity and the standard of living of the people.

During your visit you became aware that energy resources are the basis for modern industrial development and you could see that the use of nuclear forces opened up a new era of possibilities.

On the lower floor, a large decorative motif aimed to create the atmosphere of wonder that befits atomic energy. Drawings, photos, samples, models and texts combined to show you nuclear materials and techniques. They underlined the need for Belgium to have this new source of energy available in the near future to meet demand, alongside conventional energy sources, particularly coal; they also highlighted the multiple and growing use of radioisotopes in the most diverse sectors, as well as the spectacular achievements already made in Belgium at the Mol Centre.

The upper floor of the sphere was particularly devoted to the activities of Belgian industrial companies.

The extraction of uranium ores and the first transformations they underwent, the production and the different stages of nuclear fuel processing as well as the use of nuclear fuel in reactors were presented in a novel way.

An original display showed the equipment used to operate or control the reactors, as well as the arsenal of instruments, materials and tools needed to handle radioactive isotopes.

© Guide Officiel Exposition Universelle de Bruxelles 1958 - Desclée & Co