The Floating Piers in Italy, by Christo and Jeanne-Claude

On the death of artist Christo Vladimirov Javacheff, STIR remembers the man known for his monumental works of art, and the site-specific installation in Italy, The Floating Piers.

by STIRworld Published on : Jun 01, 2020

While the tangerine walkway shimmers in the Italian summer sun, at night the three kilometre stretch comes alive as a jewel encrusted aisle. Outdoor lights placed in an alternating pattern not only facilitate a visitation to the artwork after dark, they reflect as a precise strand of gems in the clear lake waters. Artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude presented yet another stunning experience in this monumental work.

Over 1,200,000 people visited Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s The Floating Piers over a course of 16 days, from June 18 to July 3, 2016. The temporary work of art featured fabric-covered piers three kilometers in length, constructed across the water of Italy’s Lake Iseo, and continued along 2.5 kilometers of pedestrian streets in Sulzano and Peschiera Maraglio.

Artist Christo Vladimirov Javacheff | The Floating Piers by Christo and Jeanne-Claude | STIRworld
Artist Christo Vladimirov Javacheff Image Credit: Wolfgang Volz

“Each project is a slice of our lives and something that I will never forget,” said Christo. “Jeanne-Claude and I first conceived The Floating Piers in 1970. I later found Lake Iseo to be the most inspiring location to realise this project. The Lake’s water, the landscape, and the communities around it have all been part of The Floating Piers. An important part of this project is the temporary part, it has a nomadic quality—this is why after 16 days it is gone".

On average over 72,000 people a day from around the world experienced The Floating Piers and explored the hosting communities around Lake Iseo, which offered food and drinks, and places for hikes where visitors could take in different vantage points of the piers.

"The Floating Piers has been a great success, despite any doubt,” said Giuseppe Faccanoni, President of Lake Basin Authority, “but the most interesting thing is that it provided new perspectives for inhabitants around the lake. It allowed us to rediscover our surroundings and the value of the lake’s inner beauty, which can sometimes be underestimated".

Over 1,000 people were employed by The Floating Piers | The Floating Piers by Christo and Jeanne-Claude | STIRworld
Over 1,000 people were employed by The Floating Piers Image Credit: Wolfgang Volz

Over 1,000 people were employed by The Floating Piers. All project workers are paid, there are no volunteers, including manufacturers, engineers, building contractors, divers, pier monitors, lifeguards, boat captains, and security personnel. The majority of the monitors, which provided round-the-clock coverage on the piers, were local Italian residents from the Lombardy region.

“We had people from all over the world come to work with us just because they wanted to be a part of this work of art,” said Izabella Tzenkova, Operations Coordinator. “Many stayed longer than expected and found it hard to say goodbye.”

“A part of the project that visitors never saw is the unique and incredible anchoring system beneath the piers designed by Rosen Jeliazkov,” said Christo. “Rosen and his team have been with us since the start of this project, helping us to realise this very technical and essential aspect of The Floating Piers. I want to thank everyone who worked on The Floating Piers—we could not have done it without so many experts and specialists.”

The Floating Piers by Christo and Jeanne-Claude | The Floating Piers by Christo and Jeanne-Claude | STIRworld
The Floating Piers by Christo and Jeanne-Claude Image Credit: Wolfgang Volz

Did you know? The Floating Piers included...

  • 220,000 high-density polyethylene cubes and pins, manufactured by four different companies in Northern Italy, were used to create a modular floating dock system on Lake Iseo. The cubes will be re-granulated onsite and the material will be re-used in the plastics industry.
  • 100,000 square meters of nylon fabric and 80,000 square meters of felt, from three companies in Germany, to cover three kilometers over the piers on water and 2.5 kilometers of pedestrian streets. The yellow-dahlia fabric as well as the felt underlay will be re-manufactured and used in the production of new fabric products. The fabric may also be ground into filler and used in products such as carpet underlayment.
  • 200 concrete dead-weight anchors, weighing 5.5 tons each, specifically designed for the project. The anchors, used under water to hold the piers in place, will all be carefully removed from the lake bed and milled/shredded for filler and industrial re-use.

(The article was first published in Issue #9 of mondo*arc india journal – an initiative by STIR.)

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