The beginning of a new era
In 1958, traces of the Second World War are starting to fade, the European Economic Community has just been created, Sputnik is orbiting, technological innovations are popping up one after the other, the consumer society is emerging and the population wants to believe that the dawn of a period of peace, prosperity and progress has arrived.
A transition into a new kind of Expo
Expo 1958 marked a turning point in the history of Expos. Even though the Expo was influenced by past expos, and their showcasing of national prestige, with the presentation of the Belgian colonial regions or the “Little Holland”, it questionned the unconditional celebration of technological progress that was at the heart of past Fairs. With its theme dedicated to Progress and Humankind, Brussels 1958 placed humanity at the heart of the event, not technology.
A highly technological Expo
During the Expo, experts pointed out the high level of the new technologies that were exhibited, such as Sputnik, nuclear power plant mock-ups as well as instruments and components made of synthetic materials, automated machines, new engines and computers. The architecture was also quite innovative using for example the pre-stressed reinforced concrete (the Philips Pavilion by Le Corbusier) or walls suspended from the roof (French pavilion).
The main pavilion and icon of Expo 1958 was the Atomium. The unique structure was not intended to survive beyond the Fair but its popularity and success soon made it a landmark and a great touristic attraction of Brussels.