Expo ’58: Fifty Years Later

Brussels 1958

Expo ’58 commemorative display in a Brussels shop window

A decade before the psychedelic euphoria of Montreal’s Expo ’67 was another emblematic World Fair, Brussels’ Expo 58. Celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year, the fair’s symbolic centrepiece, The Atomium, was restored for the occasion.

The Atomium was intended to represent a giant iron molecule magnified billions of times. As cheesy as this may sound, it is actually a striking piece of architecture that is historic and avant-garde all at once. The interior is full of Expo ’58 paraphernalia and gives an idea of a World Fair that was part “The Jetsons,” and part “Father Knows Best.” Like Expo ’67, the archives that remain from the period exude a similar spirit of naive optimism fronted by the paste-on smiles of Expo hostesses. Whereas the Brussels fair celebrated the dawn of a prosperous post-war era, there was still a zoo of “Live Africans” at the Belgian Congo pavillion, and some USA-USSR Cold War tensions in the air.

Atomium

Atomium

Atomium
Three views of the Atomium’s exterior


Atomium


Inside the Atomium

Expo 58
Expo ’58 inspired bathroom iconography at the Atomium

This entry was written by Patrick Donovan , posted on Wednesday June 11 2008at 09:06 pm , filed under Architecture, Europe, Heritage and Preservation, History, Public Space and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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