Ultimate tribute paid to Atomium’s creator
5 October 2005
BRUSSELS – The civil engineer whose brainchild became Brussels’ most famous landmark has died.
André Waterkeyn came up with the idea for Atomium – the giant atom of nine spheres in Heysel – which was built for the Universal Exhibition in 1958.
On Wednesday, the newspaper Le Soir reported that Brussels city authorities had decided to name the upper ball at Atomium in memory of the monument’s creator who died the previous day.
Waterkeyn, who was born in Wimbledon in the UK, during the Occupation of Belgium in 1917, moved to Brussels with his family when he was four.
He played hockey for Belgium in the Olympics twice, winning a medal for sporting merit.
But it was in the 1950s that he started a job that would lead him to dream up Atomium, as a civil engineer for Fabrimetal.
When Baron Moens de Fernig started to look for an idea to symbolise the inventiveness of Belgium, someone even suggested an upside down Eiffel Tower.
However, Waterkeyn came up with Atomium. As he told Le Soir in 2002: “I asked myself what characterised our time. I thought of nuclear energy, of the atom. And as I was working in the steel industry, I imagined a giant iron crystal: the Atomium, which is a universal name.”
During his lifetime, Waterkeyn saw his vision built and then visited by millions, including Charlie Chaplin and Walt Disney who attended the 1958 exhibition.
He also lived to see the completion of the outside refurbishment of the Atomium, replacing the aluminium plates with stainless steel.
A few hours before Waterkeyn’s death, the Atomium non-profit organisation announced that the monument will be reopened to the public on 14 February.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news