If you’ve ever been to Brussels, you’ve probably seen the Atomium. If not up close, then perhaps from afar. It’s hard to miss: A giant steel construction (is it a building? a huge sculpture?) modeled on an iron atom, built for the 1958 World Expo. It’s big and shiny, and at night it sparkles from little lights that cover its entire surface.
I always advise people to go visit. The Atomium is a curiosity and can seem a bit kitschy. I myself avoided it for years, and then when I finally saw it up close I was smitten. I adore the Atomium. It’s absolutely beautiful, it’s an engineering marvel, and the interior is a trippy time-capsule of Mid-century Modern design. It may be kitsch, but in the best possible way. It’s a bittersweet monument to a time when people thought the Atomic Age was a cause for optimism, not fear.
But did you ever wonder how they keep it so shiny? I confess I never did. But I recently took my family, visiting from the U.S., to see the Atomium and we had the great good fortune to be there on cleaning day. There was a crew standing on one of the giant silver balls, secured with harnesses and ropes, and they were manually cleaning the outside surface. Crazy! That has to be one of the coolest jobs in the world: Atomium Polisher.