The Atomium, in Brussels, Belgium, was the main pavilion and iconic image of the World Fair of 1958 (Expo 58). It is now a museum and tourist attraction. The building is 102 m (335 ft) tall, and consists of nine interconnected spheres, representing an elementary iron crystal enlarged 165 billion times.
The philosophy behind the design, by the engineer Andre Waterkeyn, was that it would symbolise a positive and democratic faith in technological progress and offer an optimistic vision of a modern scientific future.
The Atomium is made up of 8 spheres at the apexes of the structure, and 1 in the centre, each 18 m (59 ft) in diameter. The 9 spheres are connected by 20 tubes, each 29 m long. The whole composition rests on 3 supporting structures.
Stairs, escalators and a lift allow access to five of the spheres which are open to the public, and contain exhibition halls. The highest sphere contains a restaurant with panoramic views of Brussels.
In 2004, renovation works began, and lasted nearly 3 years. These works included replacing the aluminium cladding with stainless steel. The aluminium was sold as souvenirs to help pay for the renovation.
Despite originally being intended as a temporary structure, its popularity and success led to it becoming a permanent landmark and a national symbol of Belgium.
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