An urban educational project.
The work by the artist Alicia Framis
The Atomium is a tourist, cultural and heritage building, dear to the hearts of all Belgians of all generations.
It is because since 1958 it has been able to reinvent itself on a regular basis (notably around its renovation in 2006) that the Atomium has become the unmissable symbol of our country.
For more than 15 years the Atomium has been offering its visitors a strong, varied and ever-changing program. In order to fulfil the Atomium's flagship role and to meet the public's expectations as closely as possible, the teams that run it are constantly reinventing it, stepping out of its comfort zones to offer the public an unforgettable experience with every visit. It is from this approach that the Atomium draws its dynamism and vitality. The Atomium deserves to be regularly challenged in order to respond to the reality of its audiences and the ambitions of the times. These proposals to develop and improve the content offered to Atomium visitors are essential. Today, it is a question of bringing back an essentially local and family audience and taking into account the practical consequences in terms of managing visitor flows in the context of the prolonged health crisis.
We are not closing the door to the school public. On the contrary, we are convinced that we can offer a better experience to a larger number of visitors by rethinking this space, which is ultimately too often closed. It's true that it will no longer be possible for schools to stay at the Atomium, but that's not the primary vocation of our heritage landmark. The fifteen rich years spent hosting classes at night have allowed us to conclude that it was necessary to rethink the concept, the space and also the offer. The children's sphere is not disappearing.
It is simply evolving in a new direction that will make it accessible to all children who visit the Atomium. The ambition is to offer immersive exhibitions and experiences. The aim is to give all children access to an educational and entertaining program that questions the realities and challenges of the moment. We are delighted to offer all visitors the opportunity to discover this new program, which is accessible every day of the year from 10 am to 6 pm. Thanks to this choice, many more children will have access to the Atomium, because beyond their original and singular character, these reservations for the kids'sphere meant that it was ultimately accessible to too few school groups. In fact, the operating conditions only allow for 3 days a week during school periods, which is about 185 nights a year. And it must be recognized that for the past 15 years, it is often the same schools that book several years in advance, which does not allow us to open the concept to new institutions and new audiences. In a constructive and open-minded way, the Atomium's wish is to make this sphere accessible 7 days a week to all audiences, and in particular to young people, to whom we want to offer an interesting program.
Not to mention the many upheavals linked to current events that are currently preventing us from operating this sphere on a regular basis. Between the attacks of 2016 and the pandemic that has been raging in waves since 2020, with overnight stays whose cancellations follow one another in cascade, this sphere is less and less open to any public whatsoever. It is therefore in a global context and within the framework of a reflection initiated several years ago that this evolution takes shape. Several factors (image, accessibility, quality of the facilities, financial situation, health, etc.) and not just one single reason are determining the timing.
The Atomium is giving itself the opportunity to think about developing other concepts in this space that will help its influence and accessibility to as many children as possible, regardless of whether they are in school, after-school or family. It is with this in mind that programming is now being developed around this young audience, whether it be through the programming of temporary exhibitions with the ID digital installation, or with the new proposal to open this sphere to the public, or finally the development of an application aimed at families to enhance their visit and increase the fun and educational content.
The creation and development of the Children's sphere was the result of the Atomium's desire to create an educational project based on the buildings characteristics and potential, but also its history and its symbolic value.
The resulting project invites children to spend a night at the Atomium; to marvel at the view of Brussels from its panorama; and to make the most of their visit to discover other symbolic parts of Brussels…
The desire to highlight the educational aspect of the Atomium is based on the idea that towns and cities play a major role in today's society. Understanding this environment, which is both familiar and discomforting is certainly a key area for the integration and development of children.