The Atomium, Brussels's 334-foot-high replica of an atomic molecule with nine aluminum-covered spheres, re-opened on February 18, 2006, partially restored with a new interior lighting design by Ingo Maurer. According to Maurer, his playful design was influenced by movie images of space stations, UFOs, and life in space.
'When I saw the Atomium for the first time, it left me without words,' Maurer said in a prepared statement. 'On entering, I got into a feeling of disorientation, being in a delirium, an impression of a Russian spaceship designed decades ago. Everything seems to move and float.'
The structure opened in 1958 for the World's Fair and, due to its popularity, never closed. It consists of nine spheres, each with a diameter of 59 feet, connected by tubes 11 feet wide and 75 feet long, which contain stairs or elevators. Maurer lit two of these tubes with reddish light, drawing attention to the structure's form. One of the spheres, which will be used for social functions, is illuminated by a 14-foot fiberglass and aluminum pendant. Eleven plastic figures surround the fixture, depicting scenes from space. Daylight also contributes to the lighting scheme via a necklace of skylights at the entrance, allowing visitors to see parts of the lower-most globe. In conjunction with the architectural firm of Conix Architecten, Maurer will also design the lighting of the esplanade around the Atomium. While Maurer's design did not extend to the exterior, the original lighting design-spots of light on the spheres' shiny surfaces-was upgraded to use new technology.
The restoration, which began almost two years ago, cost $33 million, raised partly by the nonprofit group, who invited Maurer to design the lighting, ASBL Atomium. Six of the spheres are open to the public and now contain a restaurant, space for art exhibitions, an observation gallery, a children's playroom, and meeting rooms.