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Articles Blog

Bordeaux, France

Karyn Planett

Le Miroir d’Eau 

This “mirror, mirror” is not on the wall, but spread across the flat waterfront of the Garonne River in Bordeaux. One could say, as these water features go, it is “the fairest of them all” with 900 syncopated jets that spray and mist and froth and bubble and fizzle and fog and haze in the hot French summer sun. All this, mind you, is to the delight of little jeune filles and garçons who sprint and chase each past splashes and rainbows.           

But who is behind this magical, whimsical design? 

Jean-Max LLorca 

It’s been said that this water spectacle was the brainchild of Jean-Max Llorca. He’s described as a French designer of urban fountains with installations the world over. He is the go-to guy who knows exactly how to put punch in his water. 

The Miroir d’Eau (or Water Mirror) is found sprawling between the Quai Louis XVIII and Quai de la Douane, adjacent to the Place de la Bourse. Translated to mean, “Stock Exchange Square,” it was originally built as a royal square dedicated to Louis XV. How could this French ruler have imagined in his wildest dreams that this setting would become the backdrop for this Miroir des Quais, as it is also known. 

This water mirror is touted to be the world’s largest, measuring over 37,000 square feet. And, it was indeed constructed by Monsieur Llorca in 2006, for he is recognized as one of the world’s finest fountain specialist. He and Michel Corajoud were awarded the Bordeaux Mayor’s Prize, as well as the coveted French National Prize for Urban development in 2008. 

For just the basic statistics, know that the water plays across a massive black granite slab at a depth of less than one inch yet the mist can waft into the air 6.5 feet. This fog swirls into the afternoon heat every 15 minutes. And, despite all the best planning and timing, squealing little ones and others as well get caught up in this splashy surprise and must choose between a right proper soaking or a dash to drier ground. 

The mechanics, in addition to the magic, are riveting. There’s a massive underground tank that stores all the water needed for this display. A web of tiny canals feed small tubes that flood the surface in unison. It is ultimately drained back into the tank so the water can emerge again from 900 injectors that create the thick diaphanous mist.

Claire and Michel Corajoud 

“Le paysage c’est l’endroit où le ciel et la terre se touchent.” 

Don’t touch Spellcheck. Those words … “The landscape is the place where heaven and earth meet” … were spoken by Michel Corajoud. He, along with his wife Claire are celebrated French landscape architects and they, too, played a significant role in this marvel. Their genius helped design the perfect setting, the esplanade along the Garonne River, with floral gardens and cleverly laid-out lighting like those in Le Jardin des Lumières. This brings joy to an endless stream of strollers, dogs, skaters, pensioners at their own pace, lovers lost in space, and photography buffs wanting that perfect backlit shot.           

Well, it’s time to join the throngs dashing about in the fine mist or stand on the sidelines enjoying the merriment of those who do.