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The Floating Piers, Christo’s gift to Lake Iseo

Christo’s installation The Floating Piers, is bringing Lake Iseo mountains of tourists and attention. This is a unique work of art, an exciting path that will last until the 3rd of July.

There are debates, crowds and queues but also enthusiasm, art and the meaning of The Floating Piers, Christo’s monumental installation of land art that is offering Lake Iseo fame and attention. Until 3 July it will be possible to stroll on the gangplank and reach the island of San Paolo feeling the unique emotion of walking on water.

Christo, Jeanne-Claude and The Floating Piers project

Christo Vladimirov Yavachev, was born in Bulgaria and Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon was born in Morocco, they got married and started a common artistic project that led them to become the leading figures of international land art.

The Floating Piers was conceived by the two artists in 1970. Jeanne-Claude died in 2009 but Christo continued to run the projects he planned with his wife. It was just in 2014 that Christo decided that Lake Iseo was the perfect location for The Floating Piers project.

The artists’ prime aim has always been to create spectacular and totally free artworks. Christo and Jeanne-Claude have never accepted subsidies, financing or endorsements for their public and temporary artworks. The artist’s revenues come from the sale of his original works of art to private collectors, art galleries and museums. This is probably one of the reasons why Christo is so loved and appreciated by the public. Even at Lake Iseo the artist received positive feedback: every time he appears – crossing the lake on a strange barge he says hello to the public – people show genuine enthusiasm.

The idea of walking on water, floating and following the lake is surely fascinating and it is not easy to technically realise this effect: 220,000 cubes of high-density polyethylene supported by a modular system of floating piers form a 3 km long gangplank that crosses Lake Iseo. From Sulzano people walk until Monte Isola and then to the island of San Paolo, which is completely surrounded by The Floating Piers.

The iridescent yellow fabric, which turns orange with humidity and is 100,000 square metres completely upholsters The Floating Piers, as well as the pedestrian areas of Sulzano and Peschiera Maraglio for 1.5 kilometres. This results in a clear, lit and almost hypnotic path that can be entirely trod. You can float, sit down on it, take pictures of the lake, mountains and streets.

The Floating Piers
The Floating Piers is on Lake Iseo until 3 July © Simona Denise Deiana

What to know before visiting it

This stretch of Lake Iseo is certainly suggestive but it doesn’t usually house such a huge number of visitors. The system created to meet the visitors’ needs is functioning but with inevitable inconveniences. The itinerary to reach The Floating Piers written in the official site of the manifestation are clear but it is still recommendable to consult the official social networks that inform you in real time of delays, changes in the programme and other useful communications.

If you go there by car, boat or train, you should take into account the small inconveniences that will disappear when you see the bright yellow fabric of the gangplank. You will be amazed by the installation as well as the context and the places that acquire a different light: Sulzano and Monte Isola have unique landscapes and views that otherwise wouldn’t have obtained visibility.

It is useless to advising against visiting The Floating Piers during the weekends or when it’s too hot: in case of extremely hot weather the authorities evacuate the gangplank and it’s not possible to know in advance how many visitors there will be. You just need to enjoy this experience with enthusiasm and patience.

floating piers
One of the security guards on The Floating Piers © Simona Denise Deiana

The sustainability of The Floating Piers

Inevitable debates – mostly on the sustainability of the event – took  place.

The main problem is transportation: traffic congestions in the roads leading to the lake generate more polluting emissions. Sulzano can’t be reached by car, the train service has been enhanced, but at the same time bicycles are not allowed for safety reasons. So the only means of transportation available for visitors are shuttle buses. For this reason, according to many, the event, which was promoted as sustainable, isn’t sustainable at all. The original project included the creation of 70,000 bike racks.

Lake Iseo, maybe the least known lake of northern Italy, is getting its 16 days of glory offering an incredible experience to thousands of visitors. The Floating Piers is an extraordinary artwork and mostly Christo’s gift to this territory. 

The Floating Piers
View from Christo’s Floating Piers © Simona Denise Deiana
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