Adorned Bordeaux facades

All towns assert themselves through their architecture Bordeaux is no exception.  It is useful to delve into its street code system so as not to miss some of its unique aspects.

Bordeaux could not be Bordeaux without its 18th century architecture with its classic white stone buildings along the quays and in its protected sector. This makes it one of Bordeaux’s main heritage advantages and led, to a great extent, to its being listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. I must admit that I do not always appreciate the true value of this environment due to a lack of sufficient time. But as soon as I can, I slow the pace to take in the detail, breathing in its beauty.

The grotesque masks emphasizing the arched shape of window keystones are undoubtedly the decorative items that catch the eye first. Sculptured in the stone, they often represent the face of a woman or man sometimes set on a shell or leaf-shaped background. These figures inspired by mythology often call to mind Zeus and Bacchus. There are satyrs wandering here and there on facades and grotesque monsters can also be seen – always very impressive. I think the roaring lions showing their sharp teeth look good. There are numerous variants of these grotesque masks as their smallish scale made them relatively cheap to sculpture.    They especially flourished in the 18th century. They were incidentally strongly recommended by administrator Tourny who was in charge of Bordeaux’s development at the time. There are others, more recent, dating from the 19th century but these are mere copies. However, my pleasure knows no bounds. More or less finely hewed out of the stone, the figures are on the whole quite well preserved even though some of them have lost a portion of their ear or nose after a heavy hail storm or after frost and have not benefitted from beauty surgery.

Wrought iron also adorns Bordeaux buildings. I found the staircases very eye-catching in certain impressive town houses like Boyer Fonfrède where I had an appointment one day. This house was built at the corner of Chapeau Rouge walk with Jean-Jaurès square by the architect Victor Louis who designed and built Bordeaux’s Grand-Theatre. The flight of stairs in wrought iron elegantly emphasizes the staircase’s spiral motion. Unfortunately, I cannot obtain admission to all of these private houses. But I make up for it with the window sills and balcony railings. What do I prefer? The cantilevered balconies whose curved shapes harmonize very well with the scrolls and arabesques of the wrought iron subjects.

Finally, I look out for door knockers with the greatest of perseverance. The bigger they are, the more lovely they are. The wrought iron worker who fashioned them was able to give free rein to his creative flair. Unfortunately, they are becoming increasingly hard to find. Some have been stolen, others removed by their owners who did not wish to put temptation in the way of thieves.

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