The Atomium is a building in Brussels originally constructed for Expo 58, the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. Designed by the engineer André Waterkeyn and architects André and Jean Polak, it stands 102m (335 ft) tall.
Its nine 18 m (60 ft) diameter stainless steel clad spheres are connected so that the whole forms the shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times.
A seminal totem in the Brussels skyline. Neither EN tower, nor pyramid. Half-way between sculpture and architecture. A relict of the past with a determinedly futuristic look. The Atomium is the only symbol of its kind in the world.
The Atomium was not intended to survive beyond the 1958 World Fair but its popularity and success soon made it a key landmark, first of Brussels, then countrywide and finally European.
In the 1950s, faith in scientific progress was great, and a structure depicting atoms was chosen to embody this. The Atomium depicts nine iron atoms in the shape of the body-centred cubic unit cell of an iron crystal, magnified 165 billion times.
Though the Atomium depicts an iron unit cell, the balls were originally clad with aluminium. Following the 2004-2007 renovations, however, the aluminium was replaced with stainless steel, which is primarily iron. Likewise, while the subject of Atomium was chosen to depict the enthusiasm of the Atomic Age, iron is not and cannot be used as fuel in nuclear reactions.
The monumental RockGrowth, that for the first time appears in a colored version with reflecting ends, sits side by side to a Crater and a RockStone. This trilogy of sculptures tells a visual and emotional story about the evolution of my narrative: from the RockStoneBlast, that confronts us to an opaque mass, to the CraterRed that speaks of internal feelings and transparency, to the monumental RockGrowth, we walk towards an expansion with no limit. As an echo of the visual presence of the Atomium, this piece talks about development, growth, joy and energy.
The story of the Atomium is, above all, one of love, the love that the Belgians have for an extraordinary structure symbolising a frame of mind that wittily combines aesthetic daring with technical mastery. The appearance of the Atomium is unusual and unforgettable. It has a rare quality of lifting everyone’s spirits and firing their imagination.
Diane Hennebert, 2008.
With friendly approval by Atomium.be – SABAM 2017 – Jakob Voges.