Since November, the 80 year-old Bulgarian-born artist and his team have been overseeing the assembly and anchoring of 220,000 floating poly-ethylene cubes to create a three kilometre walkway connecting the mainland with two islands in Lake Iseo, Lombardy.
“For the first time, for 16 days, from the 18th of June to July 3, they will walk on the water,” Christo said of the 2,000 residents of Monte Isolo, which is normally only accessible by boat.
The Floating Piers is expected to draw half a million visitors to the little-known lake in northern Italy.
Due largely to the relatively rural location, that is considerably fewer than the five million who visited Christo’s and his late wife Jeanne-Claude’s famous Wrapped Reichstag in Berlin in 1995 and the two million who walked through their work The Gates in New York City’s Central Park in 2005.
The project still awaits a final touch: the application of deep yellow fabric that the artist says will change from nearly red to brilliant gold under the effects of light and humidity.
The fabric will be sewn into place using specially made sewing machines to create natural folds. Christo warned that visitors will have to step carefully along the platform.
The artist describes the sensation of strolling along the floating piers as “walking on the back of a whale”.
When the installation opens on 18 June, 150 volunteers, among them lifeguards, will be posted on the piers and on boats around the clock to ensure safety. Entrance is free, with the entire cost of the €15m (£11.7m/US$17m) project financed by the artist.
Christo’s projects are as much feats of engineering as they are works of art. He has brought in a team of athletes from his native Bulgaria to assemble the specially made cubes and divers to anchor them to concrete slabs on the lake-floor. The 190 anchors were moved into place by hot air balloons.
Christo, whose full name is Christo Vladimirov Yavachev, chose Lake Iseo for its calm waters and simple shoreline against the majestic alpine foothills that some believe may have inspired the background of the Mona Lisa.
“Each project finds his right place,” he said.
From The Guardian