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Atomium edges closer to protected status after years of wrangling

Illustration picture shows the street sign during the inauguration of the Atomium Square (Square de l'Atomium - Place de l'Atomium - Atomiumplein), at the Heysel plateau (Heizel), in Brussels, Monday 09 July 2018. (BELGA PHOTO)
10:40 22/01/2021

For years, politicians have been talking about the classification of the Atomium, but the City of Brussels has always provided enough opposition to prevent the iconic structure from gaining protected status. However, the latest attempts may finally result in a positive outcome.

Classifying a building is a legal issue. It ensures that a building is protected. According to Atomium director Henri Simons, all the ministers he has had dealings with on the issue over the years have thought about classifying the Atomium. However, Simons admits that it would be a symbolic rather than a useful act. He thinks that classification would complicate matters because it would be more difficult to manage a classified building.

Brussels MEP David Weytsman, who revived the topic once more with the secretary of state for urban planning Pascal Smet, thinks it is important or even necessary to classify the Atomium in order to protect it, but also to ensure that future adjustments or renovations are in accordance with its protected status. "It's high time to finish this,” he said. “We've been saying that for years."

The Royal Commission on Monuments and Landscapes issued a proposal for classification in October 2018. The classification proposal was declared complete on 25 November 2019, but the Atomium is still not protected. The Commission proposes that the Atomium should be part of an extensive protection zone. The Centenary Avenue and Brussels Expo would also be included.

The government is analysing the dossier and will have to make a decision based on the advice of the KCML, the City of Brussels and other stakeholders.

But the City of Brussels is not in favour of this classification. According to the city, the building has been renovated and well maintained. A classification procedure would make it more difficult to maintain the building.

Written by Nick Amies