Expo 58

EXPO Brussels 1958

BIE-class Universal exposition
Category First category General Exposition
Name Expo 58
Area 2 square kilometres (490 acres)
Visitors 41,454,412
Countries 44
Country Belgium
City Brussels
Venue Heysel
Coordinates 50°53′50″N 4°20′21″E / 50.89722°N 4.33917°E / 50.89722; 4.33917
Bidding 7 May 1948 (1948-05-07)
Awarded November 1953
Opening 17 April 1958 (1958-04-17)
Closure 19 October 1958 (1958-10-19)
Universal expositions
Previous Exposition internationale du bicentenaire de Port-au-Prince in Port-au-Prince
Next Century 21 Exposition in Seattle
Specialized Expositions
Previous Interbau in Berlin
Next Expo 61 in Turin
Horticultural expositions
Next Floriade 1960 in Rotterdam

Expo 58, also known as the Brussels World’s Fair (Dutch: Brusselse Wereldtentoonstelling, French: Exposition Universelle et Internationale de Bruxelles), was held from 17 April to 19 October 1958.[1] It was the first major World's Fair after World War II.


Nearly 15,000 workers spent three years building the 2 km2 (490 acres) site on the Heysel plateau, 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) northwest of central Brussels, Belgium. Many of the buildings were re-used from the Brussels International Exposition of 1935, which had been held on the same site.[2]

Every 25 years starting in 1855, Belgium had staged large national events to celebrate its national independence following the Belgian Revolution of 1830. However, the Belgian government under prime minister Achille Van Acker decided to forego celebrations in 1955 to have additional funding for the 1958 Expo.[3]

Expo 58 was the 11th World's Fair hosted by Belgium, and the fifth in Brussels, following the fairs in 1888, 1897, 1910 and 1935. Since Expo 58, Belgium has not arranged any more world fairs.


The Atomium

The site is best known for the Atomium, a giant model of a unit cell of an iron crystal (each sphere representing an atom). More than 41 million visitors visited the site,[4] which was opened with a call for world peace and social and economic progress, issued by King Baudouin I.

Notable exhibitions include the Philips Pavilion, where "Poème électronique", commissioned specifically for the location, was played back from 425 loudspeakers, placed at specific points as designed by Iannis Xenakis, and Le Corbusier.

Another exhibition at the Belgian pavilion was the Congolese village that some have branded a human zoo.[5]

National pavilions


The Austrian pavilion was designed by Karl Schwanzer in modernist style. It was later transferred to Vienna to host the museum of the 20th century. In 2011 it was reopened under the new name 21er Haus. It included a model Austrian Kindergarten, which doubled as a day care facility for the employees, the Vienna Philharmonic playing behind glass, and a model nuclear fusion reactor that fired every 5 minutes.


The exposition "One Day in Czechoslovakia" was designed by Jindřich Santar who cooperated with artists Jiří Trnka, Antonín Kybal, Stanislav Libenský and Jan Kotík. Architects of the simple, but modern and graceful construction were František Cubr, Josef Hrubý and Zdeněk Pokorný. The team's artistic freedom, so rare in the hard-line communist regime of the 1950s, was ensured by the government committee for exhibitions chairman František Kahuda. He supported the famous Laterna Magika show, as well as Josef Svoboda's technically unique Polyekran. The Czechoslovak pavilion was visited by 6 million people and was officially awarded the best pavilion of the Expo 58.[6]


This was designed by the architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez. It was awarded the exposition's star of gold.


The city of Paris had its own pavilion, separate from the French one.

United Kingdom

This was produced by the designer James Gardner, architect Howard Lobb & engineer Felix Samuely. The on-site British architect was Michael Blower, Brussels born and bilingual.[7]


The US pavilion was quite spacious and included a fashion show with models walking down a large spiral staircase, an electronic computer that demonstrated a knowledge of history, and a color television studio behind glass. It was designed by noted architect Edward Durell Stone.


The Soviet pavilion was a large impressive building which they folded up and took back to Russia when Expo 58 ended. They had a facsimile of Sputnik which mysteriously disappeared, and they accused the US of stealing it. They had a bookstore selling science and technology books in English and other languages published by the Moscow Press. On the exposition there was also a model of Lenin first nuclear icebreaker, and cars: GAZ-21 Volga, GAZ-13 Chaika, ZIL-111, Moskvitch 407 and 423, trucks GAZ-53 and MAZ-525.[8] The Soviet exposition was awarded with a Grand Prix.[8]

The Federal Republic of Germany

The West German pavillon was built by the architects Egon Eiermann and Sep Ruf. The world press called it the most beautiful pavillon of the exhibition.


The pavilion of Yugoslavia was designed by the architect Vjenceslav Richter, who originally proposed to suspend the whole structure from a giant cable-stayed mast. When that proved too difficult, Richter devised a tension column consisting of six steel arches supported by a pre-stressed cable, which stood in front of the pavilion as a visual marker and symbolized Yugoslavia's six constituent republics. Filled with modernist art, the pavilion was praised for its elegance and simplicity and was awarded a Gold Medal. After the end of Expo 58, it was sold and reconstructed as a high school in the Belgian municipality of Wevelgem, where it still stands.


Mozart's Requiem incident

Mozart's manuscript, with missing corner.

The autograph of Mozart's Requiem was placed on display. At some point, someone was able to gain access to the manuscript, tearing off the bottom right-hand corner of the second to last page (folio 99r/45r), containing the words "Quam olim d: C:". As of 2012 the perpetrator has not been identified and the fragment has not been recovered.[9]

If the most common authorship theory is true, then "Quam olim d: C:" might very well be the last words Mozart wrote before he died. It is probable that whoever stole the fragment believed that to be the case.

International film poll

The event offered the occasion for the organization by thousands of critics and filmmakers from all over the world, of the first universal film poll in history.[10]

Rank Film Director Year
1 Броненосец Потёмкин (Battleship Potemkin) Sergei Eisenstein 1925
2 The Gold Rush Charles Chaplin 1925
3 Ladri di biciclette (Bicycle Thieves) Vittorio De Sica 1948
4 La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc (The Passion of Joan of Arc) Carl Theodor Dreyer 1928
5 La Grande Illusion (Grand Illusion) Jean Renoir 1937
6 Greed Erich von Stroheim 1924
7 Intolerance: Love's Struggle Through the Ages D. W. Griffith 1916
8 Мать (Mother) Vsevolod Pudovkin 1926
9 Citizen Kane Orson Welles 1941
10 Земля (Earth) Alexander Dovzhenko 1930
11 Der letzte Mann (The Last Laugh) F.W. Murnau 1924
12 Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) Robert Wiene 1920

See also


  1. "When the world was in Brussels". Flanders Today. April 16, 2008.
  2. Video: Brussels World's Fair, 1958/03/17 (1958). Universal Newsreel. 1958. Retrieved February 21, 2012.
  3. Expo 58, The Royal Belgian Film Archive, Revised Edition, 2008, p. 78 (booklet accompanying DVD edition of footage from the exhibition)
  4. Mattie, Eric (1998). Weltausstellungen (in German). Stuttgart/Zürich: Belser Verlag. p. 201. ISBN 3-7630-2358-5. Missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  5. "Deep Racism: The Forgotten History Of Human Zoos". PopularResistance.Org. 2014-02-18. Retrieved 2014-03-24.
  6. MF DNES, Expo 2010, Mimořádná příloha o světové výstavě v Šanghaji, 3.5.2010.
  7. See chapter by Jonathan Woodham - Caught between Many Worlds: the British Site at Expo ‘58’(see bibliography)
  8. 1 2 GAZ-21I «Wołga», "Avtolegendy SSSR" Nr. 6, 2009, DeAgostini, ISSN 2071-095X (Russian), p.7
  9. Facsimile of the manuscript's last page, showing the missing corner from Austrian National Library
  10. Władysław Jewsiewicki: "Kronika kinematografii światowej 1895-1964", Warsaw 1967, no ISBN, page 129 (in Polish)


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