On one of the bulletin boards outside of our labs someone recently posted a brochure about the Atomium, and it really caught my attention. This interesting-looking building was erected for the International Exhibition of Brussels in 1958 (the World Fair in Brussels). Based on the structure of solid iron (which by the way is body centered cubic) magnified 165 billion times, the Atomium was designed to "embody the audacity of an epoch that seeks to confront the destiny of man with scientific discovery." Though I don't believe the individual spheres of the building are 165 billion times bigger than a real life iron atom (an iron atom is approximately 2.5 Angstroms in diameter x 165,000,000,000 = 135 feet, and the actual building spheres are only about half that size), the distances between the atoms are supposedly magnified to that size.
Visitors are only allowed in 5 of the 9 spheres--the base (Henri Storck sphere), where you will find an exhibit dedicated to the 1950's, the top restaurant sphere, the central (Waterkeyn) snack bar sphere, the sphere named after the Belgian artist Marcel Broodthaers, and the children's only sphere. At 115 feet long, the escalators found inside the tubes of the Atomium are some of the the longest in Europe.
Why make a body centered cubic building modeled after the structure of iron?? It was a tribute to the steel companies that helped to sponsor the construction by providing raw materials.
After seeing these pictures, I really want to visit. Thanks to Mirth (and her family) for the lovely photographs.
Artwork inside of the Atomium