Paris’s new fountains glitter with 3,000 Swarovski crystals

The fountains, designed by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, are being installed on the Champs-Elysées.

Paris got the title City of Lights because it was home to the Age of Enlightenment, and it was one of the first cities to have gas street lighting throughout its streets. These new crystal and LED light fountains continue that tradition.


Designed by prominent French brothers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, the fountains are being erected on six disused fountain bases built in the 19th century on the Champs-Elysées roundabout. They are the result of three years of conceptualization, development, and construction working with Swarovski engineers in Austria. According to the designers in a press release, “the fountains’ geometry aligns with the height of surrounding trees to subtly merge into the urban landscape while paying respect to its historical setting.” The fountains have 3,060 crystals in all, weighing some 2.7 tons.

[Photo: Claire Lavabre/Studio Bouroullec]

Each of the fountains has crystal elements that were custom-cut by Swarovski for the project. Each crystal segment makes up the three arms that form the fountain, falling like the arms of a weeping willow from a central trunk made of bronze.

The arms don’t just stay there, static. They rotate slowly and, as water flows through them until it falls at their ends, LED lights illuminate the branches. The lights, Swarovski says, are programmed to change color, working both by day and night to create all kinds of weird and wonderful effects.

Swarovksi said it had to invent and patent a new way to create crystal that could withstand the weather and pollution of the city. The new crystal is 30% lighter compared with traditional crystal yet still sturdy and easily maintained. Swarovski also developed a new process for invisibly embedding LEDs into the crystals. Perhaps some think the fountains are more City of Bling Bling than City of Light but, seriously, have you looked at the Eiffel Tower lately? I rest my case.

The fountains will be officially unveiled March 21.


About the author

Jesus Diaz founded the new Sploid for Gawker Media after seven years working at Gizmodo, where he helmed the lost-in-a-bar iPhone 4 story. He's a creative director, screenwriter, and producer at The Magic Sauce and a contributing writer at Fast Company.