Temporary Residence: Christo’s Latest Installation Lets Us Walk on Water
As the Bulgarian artist’s Floating Piers draw to a close, we reflect on art that’s not made to last, Sulzano
Journal > Temporary Residence: Christo’s Latest Inst…

One hundred kilometers east of Milan,  65 kilometers east of Lake Como, and nestled in the dense woodland of Northern Italy lies Lombardy’s fourth largest lake.

For the past 16 days, the usually quiet Lago d’Iseo has welcomed over a million visitors from across the world to walk on its waters. Christo’s latest installation, The Floating Piers connects mainland Sulzano to Monte Isola and the tiny island of San Paolo. His first outdoor installation in over a decade since The Gates in New York’s Central Park in 2005, The Floating Piers draws on Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s love for projects in Italy including Wrapped Fountain, Wrapped Medieval Tower in Spoleto, 1968 and Wrapped Monuments in Milan, 1970.

First conceived in 1970 by Christo and Jeanne-Claude (his partner and wife of 47 years who died in 2009), the 81-year-old Bulgarian artist wanted to complete a work that would enable us to walk on water. And from June 18-July 3, 2016, over half a million visitors got to do just that. The three-kilometer platform moved with the water, the edges sloping downwards allowing swans to swiftly glide into the lake from the gleaming saffron fabric pontoons. The project wrapped around the island of San Paolo and connected Sulzano on the mainland to Monte Isola for the first time. “The Floating Piers are an extension of the street and belong to everyone,” Christo has said of the project. Judging by the hundreds of thousands queuing to step foot on the golden pathway, this temporary, free installation is art for the people in its truest sense. Swans and dogs welcome, too.

A three kilometer long walkway forms the Floating Piers. Sixteen meters wide and 35cm high with sides that slope gently into the water. The saffron-colored fabric extends into the pedestrian streets of Sulzano and Peschiera Maraglio.

“All the artwork Jeanne-Claude and I do is work of joy and beauty. They don’t serve anything except to be a work of art,” Christo said in an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

Two hundred and twenty thousand high-density polyethylene modular cubes create the basis of the three-kilometer-long Floating Piers.

The best way to experience the moving walkway is barefoot. One hundred thousand square meters of fabric was used and seventy thousand square meters of felt underlay atop the modular floating dock to create a golden pathway that moves with the water and bounces underfoot.

The Floating Piers, as with all Christo’s work, was funded entirely through the sale of his own works of art. At the end of the sixteen-day exhibition, the installation will be removed and recycled.

“Those who experienced The Floating Piers felt like they were walking on water—or perhaps the back of a whale,” said Christo. “The light and water transformed the bright yellow fabric to shades of red and gold throughout the sixteen days.”

Monte Isola is the highest lake island in Western Europe at 1,969ft above sea level and offers a bird’s-eye view of the project.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude. The Floating Piers by Taschen is available here.

Text: Andie Cusick