Building completed 100 years ago became iconic Atomic Bomb Dome

Building completed 100 years ago became iconic Atomic Bomb Dome

The construction of the building now known as the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima was completed 100 years ago on Sunday.

Originally called the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall, the dome, instantly recognizable by its exposed metal framework, now symbolizes the tragedy of the atomic bombing for people in Japan and around the world.

The exhibition hall was completed on April 5, 1915. It was built by the Czech architect Jan Letzel (1880-1925) who designed distinctive Western-style buildings in Tokyo and other parts of Japan.

In 1933 the building's name was changed to the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall.

"It was delicate and graceful. I was proud to live next to it," said Masaaki Tanabe, whose childhood home was just east of the hall.

Tanabe, 77, has used computer graphics to recreate the streets of Hiroshima before the bombing.

The hall was a bustling place at the time, when crowds would come for exhibitions and sales of the prefecture's specialty products.

Yet by about 1944, the building's atmosphere started to change completely after the rapid arrival of state, prefectural and corporate offices supporting the war effort.

Then came Aug. 6, 1945. The bomb exploded above a spot about 160 meters southeast of the hall.

The building was engulfed in flames, killing everyone inside.

Tanabe lost his parents and younger brother that day. His home and neighborhood were leveled.

In 1966, the city assembly decided to preserve the dome.

"I used to see it as just a shadow of its former self. I even wanted it torn down right away," Tanabe said.

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