darcy in dijon

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So I show up to the Austin Geological Society’s yard sale to support the tribe and bump into Patricia “Pat” Bobeck, who happens to be an expert on Henry Darcy, the father of hydrogeology and namesake of Darcy’s Law. Pat and I chitchat, and she asks “Any vacation plans this summer?” “Yes!” I reply. “The bride and I are fixin’ to head to Europe to spend time in France. In fact, we plan to stop in at Dijon [Henry Darcy’s hometown] and check out the Darcy sites!” “What day will you be there?” she asks. I check my calendar and tell her the date, and she replies “I can be there then as well! Would you like a tour?” Would I like a tour? Does a hydrogeologist dream of Darcy’s Law!

We met Pat at the entrance to Parc Darcy at the Ours Pompon, a Modernist statue of a polar bear. Behind the polar bear is the Fountaine du Jardin Darcy bequeathed with a bust of the man himself (see top photo). Darcy earned his local fame, outside of his hydrogeological fame, which came later, through solving the city’s water problem in the mid-1800s by capturing the flow of a nearby spring and piping it to Dijon for distribution across the city. The park and bust are all about his local fame rather than his worldwide, scientific fame. Nonetheless, it’s great to see a hydrogeologic hero get his recognition.

IMG_8233The Pompon

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Fontaine du Jardin Darcy

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The fountain is designed to evoke the source spring.

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Beneath this tower is a labyrinth of storage for the delivered spring water. It now stores stormwater, which is used to irrigate the park.

IMG_8760Henry! Why so serious?

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Commemorative plaque on the tower. For some reason, it’s all in French.

IMG_8206Ms. (now Dr.) Pat Bobeck explaining Dijon’s water system.

IMG_8211_fusedWe were touring a bunch of Le Corbusier buildings on our trip, so we were tickled International-Style white that the playscape behind the Darcy tower had a rendition of Corbu’s most iconic work, the Villa Savoye, a house we visited earlier on our trip.

IMG_8240An unfortunate chemical oversight in fountain design…

Beneath the tower, fountain, and park is a beautiful underground reservoir. Sadly, we weren’t able to get down in there. This reservoir–as well as another one across town it was paired with–is where Darcy stored water for the city.

The reservoir across town is not as regal as the one at Parc Darcy and is above ground but buried under a man-made hill. It also has a tower that looks like a castle battlement. The reservoir is located at the now-named Square Gabriel et Jeannine Lejard (at Boulevard de Strasbourg and Rue du Creux d’Enfer), a local who served in WW I, survived Auschwitz, and rallied against the wars and its perpetrators.

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The source springs are about seven miles to the north-northwest of Parc Darcy at La Fountaine de Jouvence d’Hier a Aujourd’hui near the village of Messigny-et-Vantoux. The spring is located at the public Parc de Jouvence, so it’s accessible to visitors. Google has the spring marked so you can find it, as well as many other springs, in the woods.

Like many springs captured for municipal water supplies, Darcy enclosed it to keep dead animals and urinating soccer fans from impacting water quality. Darcy also negotiated with downstream users to ensure they had enough water to farm (hence the outflow at the spring) and also offered water to intervening towns noting that they had just as much right to the flow as Dijon.

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Source spring for Darcy’s supply project.

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“Source de Jouvence”

IMG_8594a peek at the geology…

IMG_8609springflow down the hill

IMG_8606another spring

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With the spring captured, Darcy then had to get the water to town. He did this with a completely gravity-fed system from the source to the tap. He designed and built a pipeline from the spring to the storage basins in Dijon with walk-able vaults nearly the entire way to facilitate pipe maintenance.  The first expression of the pipeline is at the entrance to Parc de Jouvence where he had to build a siphon to get under Le Suzon Creek. From there, the vault and pipeline are underground except where they cross Le Suzon Creek as they follow it down the landscape.

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the siphon under Le Suzon Creek at Parc de Jouvence

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IMG_8633an exposure of the aqueduct at 47.383738, 5.025138

Back in Dijon, we visited several of Darcy’s residences as well as several public water-supply fountains fed by Darcy’s system that still grace the city’s streets, although they are dormant.

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one of the public water-supply fountains Darcy’s system fed

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one of Darcy’s early (childhood?) residences

IMG_8327one of Darcy’s later residences

IMG_8381Pat in one of the public water-supply fountain insets.

Unfortunately, Darcy struggled with health issues. Toward the end of his life, he spent his time in the general hospital, working on his tome (Pat was the first to translate it to English). While at the hospital, Darcy developed and documented the law named after him, running his column experiments on the hospital grounds.

When we visited the hospital, it was sadly slated for demolition. Pat had been working to save the site, but upon earthviewing the location when writing this post, I see that her efforts were to no avail–the hospital is sadly gone. I feel fortunate to have seen this hydrogeologic hallowed ground before the city razed it.

IMG_8690 (1).jpegthe hospital Darcy stayed in toward the end of his life

IMG_8678.jpegsomewhere on these grounds, Darcy ran his Darcy Law experiments

IMG_8674.jpegoh no!

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OH NO!!!!

Pat kindly set aside a day of her trip to give us a soupe-à-noisettes tour of all things Darcy in Dijon. This dreamy tour was like taking the Spinal Tap hydrogeologic geek amp and turning it up to 11. And then, as if things couldn’t have gotten any more perfect, we woke up the next day to historic postcard vendors below our downtown hotel. Indeed, they had postcards of Darcy stuff!

IMG_8732.jpegpostcards!

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Dijon+10a.jpgDarcy also designed the train tunnel in town

And yes, while in Dijon, we dijoned and visited a mustard bar. We’re not complete animals, you know.

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Dijon is, of course, a lovely French city. Below are some general photos of the town.


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IMG_8710.jpegAlec Eiffel designed Dion’s public market

IMG_8748.jpeginside Eiffel’s market

IMG_8285an animetronic clock!

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touch the owl for good luck!

IMG_8717.jpegyou can’t escape Texas!

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