Expo 58

Last updated

1958 Brussels
Expo58 building Philips.jpg
The Philips Pavilion during Expo '58
BIE-classUniversal exposition
CategoryFirst category General Exposition
NameExpo 58
Area2 km2 (490 acres)
City Brussels
Venue Heysel/Heizel
Coordinates 50°53′50″N4°20′21″E / 50.89722°N 4.33917°E / 50.89722; 4.33917
Bidding7 May 1948 (1948-05-07)
AwardedNovember 1953
Opening17 April 1958 (1958-04-17)
Closure19 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 1958 Brussels World's Fair (French : Exposition Universelle et Internationale de Bruxelles de 1958, Dutch : Brusselse Wereldtentoonstelling van 1958), was a world's fair held on the Heysel/Heizel Plateau in Brussels, Belgium, from 17 April to 19 October 1958. [1] It was the first major world's fair registered under the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) after World War II.



Expo 58 was the eleventh world's fair hosted by Belgium, and the fifth in Brussels, following the fairs in 1888, 1897, 1910 and 1935. In 1953, Belgium won the bid for the next world's fair, winning out over other European capitals such as Paris and London.

Nearly 15,000 workers spent three years building the 2 km2 (490 acres) site on the Heysel/Heizel Plateau, 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) north-west of central Brussels. Many of the buildings were re-used from the 1935 World's Fair, which had been held on the same site. [2]

The theme of Expo 58 was "Bilan du monde, pour un monde plus humain" (in English: "Evaluation of the world for a more humane world"), a motto inspired by faith in technical and scientific progress, as well as post-war debates over the ethical use of atomic power. [3]

The exhibition attracted some 41.5 million visitors, making Expo 58 the second largest World's Fair after the 1900 Exposition Universelle et Internationale de Paris, which attracted 48 million visitors. [3] 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. [4] Since Expo 58, Belgium has not organised any more world's fairs.


The Atomium, a landmark of Brussels, was built for Expo '58. Atomium Belgium 1.jpg
The Atomium, a landmark of Brussels, was built for Expo '58.

More than forty nations took part in Expo 58, with more than forty-five national pavilions, not including those of the Belgian Congo and Belgium itself.

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, [5] 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. [6]

Belgian Congo Section

The Belgian Congo section was located in 7.7 hectares (19 acres) in close proximity to the Atomium model. The Belgian Congo, today known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was at that time a Belgian colonial holding. Expo organizers also included participants from the UN Trust Territories of Ruanda-Urundi (today, Rwanda and Burundi) in the Belgian Congo section, without differentiation. [7] This section was divided into seven pavilions: the Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi Palace, agriculture; Catholic missions; insurance, banks, trade; mines and metallurgy; energy, construction, and transport; a village indigène (indigenous village). The Belgian Congo section was, above all, intended to display the "civilizing" work of the Belgian colonialism. [3] The ville indigène is of the most notable modern "human zoos" of the 20th century. [8]

Human zoo

Another exhibition at the Belgian pavilion was the Congolese village that some have branded a human zoo. [9]

The Ministry of Colonies built the Congolese exhibit, intending to demonstrate their claim to have "civilized" the "primitive Africans." Native Congolese art was rejected for display, as the Ministry claimed it was "insufficiently Congolese." Instead, nearly all of the art on display was created by Europeans in a purposefully primitive and imitative style, and the entrance of the exhibit featured a bust of King Leopold II, under whose colonial rule millions of Congolese died. The 700 Congolese chosen to be exhibited by the Ministry were educated urbanites referred to by Belgians as évolués , meaning literally "evolved," but were made to dress in "primitive" clothing, and an armed guard blocked them from communicating with white Belgians who came to observe them. The exotic nature of the exhibit was lauded by visitors and international press, with the Belgian socialist newspaper Le Peuple praising the portrayal of Africans, saying it was "in complete agreement with historical truth." However, in mid-July the Congolese protested the condescending treatment they were receiving from spectators and demanded to be sent home, abruptly ending the exhibit and eliciting some sympathy from European newspapers. [3]

National pavilions


The Austrian pavilion was designed by Austrian architect 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.


Czechoslovakian pavilon was relocated to Prague, the restaurant works since 2001 as an office space (the main pavilon in another location destroyed 1991 by fire) Praha, Holesovice, budova Expo 58 II.JPG
Czechoslovakian pavilon was relocated to Prague, the restaurant works since 2001 as an office space (the main pavilon in another location destroyed 1991 by fire)

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. [10]


The Liechtenstein pavilion featured a bronze bust of Franz Joseph II at the entrance, a collection of weapons, stamps, and important historical documents from the Principality, paintings from the Prince's personal collection, and exhibits showcasing Liechtenstein's industry, landscape, and religious history. Also featured in the building was an interior garden with a circular walkway enabling visitors to browse the entire pavilion. [11]


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

City of Paris

The city of Paris had its own pavilion, separate from the France exhibit.

United Kingdom

This was produced by the designer James Gardner, architect Howard Lobb and engineer Felix Samuely. The on-site British architect was Michael Blower, Brussels born and bilingual. [12]


USSR pavilion during Expo '58 1958 USSR Expo Pavillon.jpg
USSR pavilion during Expo '58

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

United States

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 also served as the concert venue for performance by the Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Edward Lee Alley. [14] [15] It was designed by architect Edward Durell Stone. It would also play host to the University of California Marching Band which had financed its own way to the fair under the direction of James Berdahl. [16] The United States pavilion consisted of 4 buildings, [17] one of which hosted America the Beautiful, a 360° movie attraction in Circarama made by Walt Disney Productions. [18] The film would subsequently travel to the American National Exhibition in Moscow in 1959, [19] and would find its first American audiences at Disneyland in Anaheim in 1960.

Federal Republic of Germany

The West German pavilion was designed by the architects Egon Eiermann and Sep Ruf. The world press called it the most polished and sophisticated pavilion of the exhibition. [20]


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 complicated, 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 Richter was awarded as Knight of the Order of the Belgian Crown. After the end of Expo 58, the pavilion was sold and reconstructed as a school in the Belgian municipality of Wevelgem, where it still stands.

Vjenceslav Richter: Original project for Yugoslav Pavilion Vjenceslav Richter - Original project for Yugoslav Pavilion on EXPO 1958.png
Vjenceslav Richter: Original project for Yugoslav Pavilion


Mozart's Requiem incident

Mozart's manuscript, with missing corner Mozart K626 Arbeitspartitur last page.jpg
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. [21]

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. [22] The poll received nominations from 117 critics from 26 nations. Броненосец Потёмкин (Battleship Potemkin) received 100 votes with The Gold Rush second with 95. [23]

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

A jury of young filmmakers (Robert Aldrich, Satyajit Ray, Alexandre Astruc, Michael Cacoyannis, Juan Bardem, Francesco Maselli and Alexander Mackendrick) were due to select a winner from the nominees but voted not to. Instead they indicated the following as still holding value to young filmmakers: Battleship Potemkin; Grand Illusion; Mother; The Passion of Joan of Arc; The Gold Rush and Bicycle Thieves. [24]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">World's fair</span> Large international exhibition

A world's fair, also known as a universal exhibition or an expo, is a large international exhibition designed to showcase the achievements of nations. These exhibitions vary in character and are held in different parts of the world at a specific site for a period of time, typically between three and six months.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Atomium</span> Landmark building in Brussels, Belgium

The Atomium is a landmark building in Brussels, Belgium, originally constructed for the 1958 Brussels World's Fair. It is located on the Heysel/Heizel Plateau in Laeken, where the exhibition took place. Nowadays, it is the city's most popular tourist attraction, and serves as a museum, an art centre and a cultural place.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Heysel Plateau</span> Neighbourhood, park and exhibition space in Brussels, Belgium

The Heysel Plateau or Heysel Park, usually shortened to Heysel or Heizel, is a neighbourhood, park and exhibition space in Laeken, northern Brussels, Belgium, where the Brussels International Exposition of 1935 and the 1958 Brussels World's Fair took place.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bureau International des Expositions</span> Organization to supervise international exhibitions

The Bureau international des expositions is an intergovernmental organization created to supervise international exhibitions falling under the jurisdiction of the Convention Relating to International Exhibitions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Laeken</span> Neighbourhood in Brussels, Belgium

Laeken or Laken is a residential suburb in the north-western part of the Brussels-Capital Region, Belgium. It belongs to the municipality of the City of Brussels and is mostly identified by the Belgian postal code: 1020. Prior to 1921, it was a separate municipality.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Expo '70</span> Worlds fair held in Osaka Prefecture, Japan

The Japan World Exposition, Osaka, 1970 or Expo 70 was a world's fair held in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, Japan between March 15 and September 13, 1970. Its theme was "Progress and Harmony for Mankind." In Japanese, Expo '70 is often referred to as Ōsaka Banpaku (大阪万博). It was the first world's fair held in Japan.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Royal Museum for Central Africa</span> Museum in Tervuren, Belgium

The Royal Museum for Central Africa or RMCA, also officially known as the AfricaMuseum, is an ethnography and natural history museum situated in Tervuren in Flemish Brabant, Belgium, just outside Brussels. It was built to showcase King Leopold II's Congo Free State in the International Exposition of 1897.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Heysel/Heizel metro station</span> Metro station in Brussels, Belgium

Heysel (French) or Heizel (Dutch) is a Brussels Metro station on line 6. It is located in Laeken, in the north-west of the City of Brussels, Belgium, and serves the Heysel/Heizel Plateau, famous for the World's Fairs of 1935 and 1958, the King Baudouin Stadium and the Atomium. The Bruparck entertainment park and the Centenary Palace, home to the Brussels Exhibition Centre, are also located nearby.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Expo 67 pavilions</span>

The Expo 67 International and Universal Exposition featured 90 pavilions representing Man and His World, on a theme derived from Terre des Hommes, written by the famous French pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Victor Bourgeois</span> Belgian modernist architect (1897 - 1962)

Victor Bourgeois was a Belgian architect and urban planner, considered the greatest Belgian modernist architect.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Brussels International Exposition (1935)</span> Worlds fair held in Brussels, Belgium

The Brussels International Exposition of 1935 was a world's fair held between 27 April and 6 November 1935 on the Heysel/Heizel Plateau in Brussels, Belgium.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Expo 2016</span> Horticultural exposition in Antalya, Turkey

Expo 2016 was an international horticultural exposition held in Antalya, Turkey. With the support and endorsement of both the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) and the International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH), Expo 2016 Antalya was the first A1 Category International Horticultural Exhibition to be held in Turkey.

Christine Conix is a Belgian architect whose projects have been described as innovative and diverse and creative. She created her firm Conix Architects in 1979 in the Antwerp city of Wilrijk; by 2007, her firm employed 67 people and by 2014, it had offices in Brussels, Warsaw, Rotterdam, Terneuzen, with the head office in Antwerp. In 2013, Conix architects won a contract to rebuild a Moroccan city named Nador to transform it into a center for economics and tourism, which involves constructing critical infrastructure such as houses, schools, and hospitals. Conix Architects designed a renovation and expansion for the Atomium in Belgium, a structure originally built for the 1958 World's Fair in Brussels. It designed the Belgian pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010. Her firm won a contest among 28 architectural firms agencies for architectural work relating to the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Conix believes intuition should play a large role in architectural design, and believes in sustainability, and sees no significant difference between men and women today in the field of architecture. She studied architecture at the Hoger Instituut voor Architectuurwetenschappen Henry van de Velde in Antwerp.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Brussels International Exposition (1897)</span> Worlds fair in Brussels, Belgium

The Brussels International Exposition of 1897 was a world's fair held in Brussels, Belgium, from 10 May 1897 through 8 November 1897. There were 27 participating countries, and an estimated attendance of 7.8 million people.

<i>Exposition universelle et internationale</i> (1913)

The 1913 International Exposition was a World's Fair held in Ghent from 26 April to 3 November.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Brussels International (1910)</span> Worlds fair in Brussels, Belgium

The Brussels International Exposition of 1910 was a world's fair held in Brussels, Belgium, from 23 April to 1 November 1910. This was just thirteen years after Brussels' previous world's fair. It received 13 million visitors, covered 88 hectares and lost 100,000 Belgian Francs.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Brussels Expo</span> Most important event complex in Brussels, Belgium

The Brussels Exhibition Centre, also known as Brussels Expo, is the most important event complex in Brussels, Belgium. Located on the Heysel/Heizel Plateau in Laeken, the twelve halls that comprise it are used for the largest national and international trade fairs, exhibitions and other events. With 115,000 m2 (1,240,000 sq ft) of facility space, they constitute the largest exhibition space in the Benelux. They are also a remarkable witness to the evolution of construction techniques during the 20th century.

Events in the year 1958 in Belgium.

Constantin Brodzki was a Belgian architect. He is mostly known for his Brutalist architecture and prefabricated modules using concrete in fluid and organic shapes. He was awarded the quinquennial Baron Horta Prize in 2007.

The Fifth National Industrial Exhibition was held in Osaka in 1903, was the first to be open to foreign exhibitors and twice the size of previous National Industrial Exhibitions.



  1. "When the world was in Brussels". Flanders Today. 16 April 2008.[ permanent dead link ]
  2. Video: Brussels World's Fair, 1958/03/17 (1958). Universal Newsreel. 1958. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Stanard, Matthew (April 2005). "'Bilan du monde pour un monde plus déshumanisé': The 1958 Brussels World's Fair and Belgian Perceptions of the Congo". European History Quarterly. 35 (2): 267–298. doi:10.1177/0265691405051467. ISSN   0265-6914. S2CID   143002285.
  4. Expo 58, The Royal Belgian Film Archive, Revised Edition, 2008, p. 78 (booklet accompanying DVD edition of footage from the exhibition)
  5. Mattie, Eric (1998). Weltausstellungen (in German). Stuttgart/Zürich: Belser Verlag. p. 201. ISBN   3-7630-2358-5.
  6. Drew, Joe (16 January 2010). "Recreating the Philips Pavilion". Analog Arts. Retrieved 15 June 2020.
  7. Stanard, Matthew G. (2012). Selling the Congo: A History of European Pro-Empire Propaganda and the Making of Belgian Imperialism. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN   978-0-8032-3988-3.
  8. Kakissis, Joanna (26 September 2018). "Where 'Human Zoos' Once Stood, A Belgian Museum Now Faces Its Colonial Past". NPR . Retrieved 29 May 2020.
  9. "Deep Racism: The Forgotten History Of Human Zoos". PopularResistance.Org. 18 February 2014. Retrieved 24 March 2014.
  10. MF DNES, Expo 2010, Mimořádná příloha o světové výstavě v Šanghaji, 3.5.2010.
  11. Official Guide to the Brussels World Exposition 1958. Tournai: Desclée & Co. 1958.
  12. See chapter by Jonathan Woodham - Caught between Many Worlds: the British Site at Expo ‘58’(see bibliography)
  13. 1 2 GAZ-21I «Wołga», "Avtolegendy SSSR" Nr. 6, 2009, DeAgostini, ISSN 2071-095X (in Russian), p.7
  14. "Choronology". 7th Army Symphony. Retrieved 15 June 2020.
  15. "Pan Pipes of Sigma Alpha Iota". 2. 1954: 47. Retrieved 15 June 2020. Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra performs at the Brussels World Fair 1958{{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  16. "The Pride of California: A Cal Band Centennial Celebration". Cal Band Alumni Association.
  17. Arke, Laurenzo (8 June 2016). "Expo 58: A Brief History of Belgium's World Fair Showcase". Culture Trip. Retrieved 14 July 2021.
  18. "America the Beautiful - 1958 Brussels World's Fair". Designing Disney. Retrieved 14 July 2021.
  19. Iwerks, Don (2019). Walt Disney's ultimate inventor : the genius of Ub Iwerks. Los Angeles: Disney Editions. p. 132. ISBN   978-1-4847-4337-9. OCLC   1133108493.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  20. Jones, Peter Blundell; Canniffe, Eamonn (2012). Modern Architecture Through Case Studies 1945 to 1990. Routledge. p. 28. ISBN   978-1-135-14409-8.
  21. Facsimile of the manuscript's last page, showing the missing corner Archived 2012-01-13 at the Wayback Machine from Austrian National Library
  22. Władysław Jewsiewicki: "Kronika kinematografii światowej 1895-1964", Warsaw 1967, no ISBN, page 129 (in Polish)
  23. "Inside Pictures". Variety . 24 September 1958. p. 13. Retrieved 10 March 2019.
  24. "Brussels Jury ('The Young in Heart') Can't Choose All-Time Greatest Film". Variety. 22 October 1958. p. 1. Retrieved 10 March 2019.