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The Atomium is a monument in Brussels, originally built for Expo '58, the 1958 Brussels World's Fair. Designed by André Waterkeyn, it stands 102-metres (335 ft) tall. It has nine steel spheres connected so that the whole forms the shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times.

Tubes connect the spheres along the 12 edges of the cube and all eight vertices to the centre. They enclose escalators connecting the spheres containing exhibit halls and other public spaces. The top sphere provides a panoramic view of Brussels. Each sphere is 18 metres in diameter. Three spheres are currently (2008) closed to visitors, others can be reached easily by escalators. The vertical vertex contains a lift which was very fast and advanced at the time of building (the speed is 5 m/s).[1]



One of the original ideas for Expo '58 was to build an upside-down version of the Eiffel tower; however, Waterkeyn felt that an atomic structure would be more symbolic of the era.[citation needed] The monument was originally planned to stand there for six months. However, it became a symbol not only of the World's Fair, but of modern architecture and the city of Brussels and of Belgium.[citation needed] It received monument status and stayed on the former exhibition grounds same for over 50 years. It is now one of the Brussels main attractions.


Renovation on the Atomium began in March 2004; it was closed to the public in October, and remained closed until 18 February 2006. The renovations included replacing the faded aluminium sheets on the spheres with stainless steel. To help pay for renovations, the old aluminium was sold to the public as souvenirs. A triangular piece about 2 m long sold for €1,000,[citation needed]

The renovation includes revamped exhibition spaces, a restaurant, and a dormitory for visiting schoolchildren called "Kids Sphere Hotel" which features suspended plastic sphere towers. A €2 commemorative coin depicting the sculpture was issued in March 2006 to celebrate the renovation.

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