The artwork

Walk in Lemaître's footsteps

Set out to discover all about Lemaître and the origins of the cosmos. This 2-km walk through the centre of Leuven takes you past eight medallions.

Some of their locations are tied to the life and work of Georges Lemaître. Others will give you deeper insight into the artwork itself. What’s more, you’ll discover dozens of fascinating facts about Leuven and the universe along the way.

  • The brochure is available at Visit Leuven (Naamsestraat 3)
  • Discover the 80 medaillons on this map and head our to explore the centre of Leuven

1 metre = 10 million years back in time

Primeval Atom encompasses the entire city centre. The city centre symbolises our universe. Right in the centre of the city, a central medallion marks where we are on Earth now – 13.8 billion years after the Big Bang. The Leuven Ring symbolises the start of the cosmos, the primeval atom ... or day zero. As you walk from the centre towards the ring, you travel further and further back through space and into the past. Every metre walked takes you back ten million years in time. Along the way, you’ll encounter 80 smaller medallions representing different galaxies.

Central medaillon

Primeval Atom’s big central medallion is right in the heart of Leuven. It symbolises our Earth-based perspective. It’s from here that we gaze out onto the vast universe. The installation scans the sky for galaxies and other heavenly bodies and reveals those currently over Leuven – and their distance from it – in LED lights. It also displays the speed at which they rush towards or away from us.

80 small medaillons

Scattered throughout the city, you’ll find 80 small medallions representing many galaxies. You’ll stumble across them just walking through Leuven.

When we gaze into space, we’re actually looking back in time. Every medallion displays how old the universe was the first time the galaxy’s light shone in our own heavens.

Credits • Primeval Atom, 2022

A work by Félicie d’Estienne d’Orves
A tribute to Georges Lemaîtres “Primeval Atom Hypothesis”, 1931

  • Scientific consultants: Thomas Hertog, Jean-Pierre Luminet, Fabio Acero
  • Scientific data: Fabio Acero
  • Programming: Fisheye
  • Manufacturing: Fisheye (central ring), Atelier Michel Delarasse (bronze medallion)
  • Design consultant: Sebastien Wierinck Workshop (SWWS)
  • Production: Félicie d’Estienne d’Orves & KU[N]ST Leuven
  • Producer: Nicolas Wierinck / Archer & Weaver

An initiative of KU[N]ST Leuven, the collaboration between the City of Leuven and KU Leuven, with the support of The New Patrons.

Mediators: Louise Goegebeur and Julie Goossens