Expo 58, also known as the Brussels World’s Fair, was held from April 17th to October 19th 1958. It was the first major World Expo registered under the Bureau International des Expositions after World War II.
Notable exhibitions include The Philips Electronics Company, who turned to the office of Le Corbusier for the final commission of the pavilion. Le Corbusier replied by saying that, “I will not make a pavilion for you but an Electronic Poem and a vessel containing the poem; light, color image, rhythm and sound joined together in an organic synthesis”.
For the composer of the Poème électronique, Le Corbusier commissioned Edgard Varese, the father of electronic music, choosing him over other well known composers of the time.
Le Corbusier gave minimal input into the details of how the interior of the pavilion would work, instead giving only a vague concept of what the experience should accomplish. The basic guidelines given to both his assistant Iannis Xenakis and Edgard Varese were that the interior was to be shaped in a manner similar to the stomach of a cow, with the form coming from a basic mathematical algorithm.
The concept for the pavilion was that audience members would enter in groups of 500 at ten-minute intervals, for two minutes, as the audience filed in through a curved passageway, they would hear Xenakis’s transitional piece before entering a room that would go into darkness, enveloping the audience in a space of light and sound for eight minutes while an accompanying video displayed images along the walls of the pavilion. At the end of the Poème électronique, the spectators would exit, digested, through another exit while the next group filed in.
The expo site is also known for the Atomium which was designed by the engineer André Waterkeyn and architects André and Jean Polak. It stands 335 ft tall and its nine, 60 ft diameter, stainless steel clad spheres are connected, so that the whole forms the shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times.
Tubes of 10 ft diameter connect the spheres along the 12 edges of the cube and all eight vertices to the centre. They enclose stairs, escalators and a lift (in the central, vertical tube) to allow access to the five habitable spheres, which contain exhibit halls and other public spaces. The top sphere includes a restaurant which has a panoramic view of Brussels.