Open to traffic since 2013, the Jacques Chaban-Delmas lift bridge offers a fifth passage across the Garonne river. It stands out in the emerging Bacalan neighbourhood, both as a resolutely modern work of art and as the result of an architectural feat. Its rising central span allows for passage and anchoring of ships in the city center, its colours indicate the tides and its spatial lines sublimate the Port of the Moon (Bordeaux).
Header image: “Pont Chaban-Delmas” by Les Instantanés de Bordeaux
The Chaban-Delmas Bridge is named after the mayor of Bordeaux for 48 years (from 1947 to 1995), also a former Companion of the Liberation, Prime Minister and President of the National Assembly. The bridge is the fifth river crossing in the city of Bordeaux, linking the quay of Bacalan on the left bank to the quay of Brazza north of La Bastide, on the right bank. This also explains its original name: the Bacalan-Bastide bridge.
The bridge has surprising dimensions although it fits harmoniously into the urban landscape. Being 425 meters long, 43 meters wide and having four 81 meters high towers makes it as the highest lift bridge in Europe. The firm SARL Architecture and Works of Art consisting of Christophe Cheron, Charles Lavigne and his son Thomas Lavigne, are at the minds behind this architectural success.
The bridge offers a shared and secure traffic for all modes of transport, hosting two lanes for public transport, two tracks for pedestrians and bicycles, and two lanes dedicated to cars. Its central span, housed in a profiled metallic box of 2,600 tons, rises with lightness to 53 meters above the highest level of the Garonne. This allows for passage for cruise ships and other tall ships calling on Bordeaux, Port of the Moon.
During the lifting manoeuvre, all traffic across the bridge is interrupted and deviated. A control station located on the right bank ensures the coordination of all the movements and the management of the traffic.
The three companies Grands Travaux de Marseille (GTM), Dodin Campenon-Bernard and Cimolai (a Venetian company) collaborated to build the infrastructure. The concrete blocks at the base of the bridge were manufactured on the quays of Bassens while the frame of the deck was made by the Italian company Cimolai in its workshops in the Venice region. The spans, including one measuring more than 117 meters long, were shipped to Bordeaux, following a long course of 5,500 km which took twenty days, passing through the Adriatic and the Mediterranean Seas, the Strait of Gibraltar, the Atlantic Ocean and finally finishing its route in the estuary of the Gironde.
The Art of Lighting
The Chaban-Delmas bridge has a singular lighting system that transforms the infrastructure into a colourful work of art. The visual artist Yann Kersalé (designer of the lighting of the Opéra de Lyon and the Cours Victor Hugo in Bordeaux) was sent by UNESCO to realize the bridge lighting: thousands of LED lamps highlight the fluid lines and fine apron, while a play of colours on the pylons speak of marine movements: the marine blue tint announces the high tide and a Veronese green signals low tide.
The Chaban-Delmas Bridge has allowed the traffic flow to the Bassins à Flots and Bastide districts on the north side of Bordeaux, easing the pressure on the old and fragile Pont de Pierre (currently closed for car traffic).
With its large platforms on either side it offers plenty of spaces for contemplation and to admire the Garonne, the quays and the La Cité du Vin nearby. The lifting of the bridge always offers an impressive spectacle both for visitors as well as for the Bordelais. In fact, there are dozens of occasions every year to see international ships and old riggings such as Hermione or Belem arriving in the Port from the Moon.