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Project: Christo’s Floating Piers, Italy

Project: Christo’s Floating Piers, Italy


Photo: Wolfgang Volz/Christo 2016


Discover how the artist Christo created his masterpiece on Lake Iseo


For 16 days, from 18 June to 3 July, 2016, The Floating Piers attracted worldwide attention as Bulgarian conceptual artist Christo invited visitors to walk a 3km floating pathway of golden yellow fabric over Lake Iseo. The 16m-wide path linked the northern Italian town of Sulzano with Peschiera Maraglio on Monte Isola island, and circumnavigated the islet of San Paolo. 

Christo and his late partner Jeanne-Claude first conceived of the concept in 1970, and over the years explored many countries in search of a suitable location. “It was our habit, in all our work, to develop a concept, then find a suitable site in which to realise it,” says Christo. “I turned 80 in 2015 and wanted to do something significant to mark the occasion, so I revived our search for a suitable stretch of tranquil water.” He found it in Lake Iseo, which lies between Milan and Venice. “We gave people the chance to literally walk on water. There were no tickets and no owners. The Floating Piers were an extension of the street and belonged to everyone.”


Photo: Wolfgang Volz/Christo 2016

The piers presented a unique challenge to the engineers who collaborated on the project. Christo explains: “The walkways were a modular floating dock system of 220,000 highdensity polyethylene cubes, linked by pins to form a flexible surface that undulated with the movement of the waves.” The cubes were assembled in 100 x 16m sections at Christo’s headquarters in Montecolino, and towed into place by motor boats.

Divers installed 200 concrete anchors (each weighing 5.5 tons) at depths of up to 90m, to which ropes made of ultra-high-molecular-weight-polyethylene (UHMWPE) were attached. These ropes were fixed to frames bolted at intervals to the underside of the floating walkway. The piers floated just proud of the water, although the cubes at the outer edges were filled with water to create a camber that brought them down level with its surface.

The piers and connecting streets on land were the first to be covered with 80,000 sq m of synthetic felt underlay, and then with 100,000 sq m of saffron-yellow nylon fabric manufactured in Germany by textile company Setex. This was designed specifically to modulate in colour over the course of the installation, from vivid yellow through to orange and red.

Where necessary, sections of fabric were stitched together on site with portable sewing machines. To hold the fabric paths in place, carabiners were inserted through grommets in the edge of the material which divers then hooked to a cable under the edge of the floating piers. At the end of the project, the piers were removed and all materials recycled and reused.


Photo: Wolfgang Volz/Christo 2016


Find out more at www.thefloatingpiers.com  



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