The critically acclaimed designer Christo conceived The Floating Piers with his late wife Jeanne-Claude over 45 years ago. This year, their vision has finally come to life. Orange coloured walkways now stretch over Lake Iseo in Italy, connecting two islands to the mainland. According to the artist, the public installation tries to “reframe” the region.
The Floating Piers is Christo’s the first public installation in over 10 years. His last installation was completed in 2005. Christo and Jean-Claude had installed 7 500 saffron panelled gates in Central Park, New York. The pier was conceived in the 1970’s for the Río de la Plata basin in South America. The duo’s plans subsequently fell through and in 1995, they considered the Tokyo Bay, but that project too was never realised.
Fully funded by Christo himself through sales of his artwork, the $16.8 million project took just 22 months to complete. It uses 220 000 high-density polyethylene cubes for its base. The cubes have been covered by a non-stain fabric that was created in Germany. The yellow-orange nylon fabric is designed to change colour according to the time of day.
The walkways are roughly 3 kilometres in length and 16 metres wide. They are open to the public and connect two islands to the mainland. The islands cover an area of roughly 100 000 square meters.
“I know these projects are totally irrational, totally useless,” Christo told the New York Times. “The world can live without them, nobody needs them, only me and Jeanne-Claude. She always made the point that they exist because we like to have them and if others like them, it’s only a bonus.”
The walkways opened to the public on 18 June. According to reports in the media, over 200 000 visitors have flocked to the exhibition in the days following its launch. Lifeguards, a legion of boat hands and information officers are standing guard in an effort to avert unintentional dips into the lake. Once closed on 3 July, the walkways will be dismantled and parts of it recycled or sold.
“Those who experience The Floating Piers will feel like they are walking on water – or perhaps the back of a whale,” said Christo. “The light and water will transform the bright yellow fabric to shades of red and gold throughout the sixteen days.”