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Crystal Fountains Readied for Paris’ Champs-Élysées

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The fountains, part of an ambitious redevelopment of the Champs-Élysées, are financed primarily by businesses with commercial interests along the avenue. For example, Galeries Lafayette, one of the donors, is scheduled to open a store there on March 28. “We feel we are making a strong contribution to the cultural and commercial ecosystem that we will soon be part of,” said Guillaume Houzé, the retail group’s head of communications.

J.M. Weston, a luxury shoemaker with a boutique across the street from Galeries Lafayette’s new store, contributed through its holding company EPI. Other donors included a Qatari sovereign fund that owns real estate along the avenue; Swarovski, which produced the crystal for the fountains; and Dassault Aviation, the aircraft maker whose headquarters overlook the traffic circle where they are to stand.

The fund-raising campaign was spearheaded by Fonds Pour Paris, a private organization that also raised money for the production of Jeff Koons’ “Bouquet of Tulips” sculpture, soon to stand in the gardens of the Petit Palais, and has commissioned Olafur Eliasson, the noted Icelandic-Danish artist, to redesign the Arc de Triomphe’s lighting.

For Pierre-Antoine Gatier, a chief architect for historical monuments who oversees the restoration of several Paris landmarks, introducing contemporary design to Haussmann’s urban layout is crucial to the city’s identity. “Paris is history,” he said, “but a city needs to be alive and in touch with the evolution of minds.”

And for all their seeming delicacy, the fountains are engineered to withstand high winds — and other objects. If hit by items thrown by protesters, for example, Ronan Bouroullec said, “the crystal would crack but not shatter.”

He said he hoped, however, that the fountains would be safe. “Fountains are joyful,” he said. “They are about childhood and pleasure; they are marvels.”


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