The Floating Piers popped up on my Instagram feed last week. The bright orange yellow colours made me click on it. I then realised this beautiful piece of land art was by Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

Collage 2015 11 x 8 1/2" (28 x 21.5 cm) Pencil, wax crayon, enamel paint, photograph by Wolfgang Volz, aerial photograph and fabric sample Photo: André Grossmann © 2015 Christo

Collage 2015
11 x 8 1/2″ (28 x 21.5 cm)
Pencil, wax crayon, enamel paint, photograph by Wolfgang Volz, aerial photograph and fabric sample
Photo: André Grossmann
© 2015 Christo

Who are Christo and Jeanne-Claude you may ask? They are two land artists whose careers span over 40 years. They also happen to be the first artists I studied in first year at university. I remember being impressed by the scale of their work and the ingenuity that goes into each project. They are a couple (Jeanne-Claude passed away in 2003) that create works of art in public spaces. The works are so massive one cannot ignore them. Famous examples include the Wrapped Reichstag in 1995. They warped the entire Reichstag in silvery fabric, and Running Fence 1972-76. They built a 39.4 km fabric fence that spanned across the Sonoma and Marin Counties in California.

The Project

Their latest work is The Floating Piers. Christo and Jeanne-Claude conceived the project in 1970. Christo has now brought it into being at Lake Iseo, Italy.  The Floating Piers consist of 100 000 square meters of glistening yellow fabric. It is draped over 220,000 high-density polyethylene cubes that act as a floating dock. This is not only a work of art but also an engineering masterpiece. The Floating Piers is running from the 18th of June to the 3rd of July 2016, a temporary wonder of the world.

At a factory in Fondotoce at Lago Maggiore, 200,000 high-density polyethylene cubes are manufactured over a period of eight months before delivery to the work site in Montecolino, January 2016 Photo: Wolfgang Volz

At a factory in Fondotoce at Lago Maggiore, 200,000 high-density polyethylene cubes are manufactured over a period of eight months before delivery to the work site in Montecolino, January 2016
Photo: Wolfgang Volz

The felt that will cover the cubes underneath the yellow fabric is transported from Montecolino to San Paolo island by Elimast Helicopter Service, May 2016 Photo: Wolfgang Volz

The felt that will cover the cubes underneath the yellow fabric is transported from Montecolino to San Paolo island by Elimast Helicopter Service, May 2016
Photo: Wolfgang Volz

Workers install the felt that will cover the floating cubes before the yellow fabric is installed, May 2016 Photo: Wolfgang Volz

Workers install the felt that will cover the floating cubes before the yellow fabric is installed, May 2016
Photo: Wolfgang Volz

The Experience

All Christo and Jeanne-Claude‘s works act as experiences that are everyone can enjoy. Visitors to The Floating Piers can walk on it from the villages Sulzano to Monte Isola, and then all the way to the Island San Paolo. Christo explains that:

“Like all of our projects, The Floating Piers is absolutely free and accessible 24 hours a day, weather permitting…. There are no tickets, no openings, no reservations and no owners. The Floating Piers are an extension of the street and belong to everyone.”

Collage 2014 22 x 17" (55.9 x 43.2 cm) Pencil, wax crayon, enamel paint, photograph by Wolfgang Volz, technical maps, fabric sample and tape Photo: André Grossmann © 2014 Christo

Collage 2014
22 x 17″ (55.9 x 43.2 cm)
Pencil, wax crayon, enamel paint, photograph by Wolfgang Volz, technical maps, fabric sample and tape
Photo: André Grossmann
© 2014 Christo

The Floating Piers, Lake Iseo, Italy, 2014-16 Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 2016 Christo

The Floating Piers, Lake Iseo, Italy, 2014-16
Photo: Wolfgang Volz
© 2016 Christo

The Walkway

According to Christo:

“Those who experience The Floating Piers will feel like they are walking on water – or perhaps the back of a whale…. The light and water will transform the bright yellow fabric to shades of red and gold throughout the sixteen days.”

Now you know how much I love a good draped fabric. From the images I can only imagine the spectacular sight the fabric must give as it transforms each day. The walkway is 3km long, 16 meters wide and 35 cm above the water. It provides ample room for visitors to stroll along it, or even stop and sun bathe while they float on water. Incase you were wondering, the project is funded by the sale of Christo’s artwork and at the end it will be dismantled and completely recycled.

The Floating Piers, Lake Iseo, Italy, 2014-16 Christo is watching a diver hooking a fabric panel to the side of a floating pier, June 15, 2016

The Floating Piers, Lake Iseo, Italy, 2014-16
Christo is watching a diver hooking a fabric panel to the side of a floating pier, June 15, 2016
Photo: Wolfgang Volz
© 2016 Christo

What I love about Christo and Jeanne-Claude, and loved from the first time I learnt about them, is the way their art is open to all people. People can experience it together. Their work is always situated in a public space where people will encounter it freely. It is not in a gallery with a fee where only some people will go. It’s out there in the world. I’ve always felt art has the ability to bring people together, and the beauty of it is that we experience it in different ways. This is what makes it interesting and memorable.

Learn more about Christo and Jeanne-Claude on Artsy.

The Floating Piers, Lake Iseo, Italy, 2014-16 Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 2016 Christo

The Floating Piers, Lake Iseo, Italy, 2014-16
Photo: Wolfgang Volz
© 2016 Christo