the floating piers: christo's water walkway across lake iseo, italy nears completion

the floating piers: christo's water walkway across lake iseo, italy nears completion

the floating piers: christo’s water walkway across lake iseo, italy nears completion
(above) photo by wolfgang volz




on june 18, 2016, christo and jeanne-claude reveal their first work in italy in more than 40 years. italy’s lake iseo — an area 100 kilometers east of milan — will be connected by a modular floating dock system made up of 220,000 high-density poly-ethylene cubes, and covered in 100,000 square meters of shimmering yellow fabric.


undulating with the movement of the waves, visitors can experience ‘the floating piers’ as they walk from sulzano to monte isola and to the island of san paolo, which it completely encircles. the 3-kilometer-long walkway extends clear across the water, with surrounding mountains offering a bird’s-eye view of golden network of passageways that lead in and around the city. the fabric will continue along 1.5 kilometers of pedestrian streets in sulzano and peschiera maraglio.

christo floating piers
workers install the 100 x 16 meter sections that connect the island of san paolo with the island of monte isola
photo by wolfgang volz, may 2016




the original concept for ‘the floating piers’ was conceived together with christo’s creative and life partner jeanne-claude in 1970. the couple knew a floating pier would rise just above the surface of the water, but they did not know which river or lake would best suit the project. early, unrealized renditions proposed a 2,000-meter-long inflated pier on the delta of the rio de la plata in argentina. in 1995, the idea was still active in the artists’ minds — they suggested the creation two floating piers, 150 meters long and covered in fabric, which would connect two artificial islands in tokyo bay and continue through odaiba park. this iteration was also unrealized following the denial of a permit.

christo floating piers
aerial view of the project’s building yard on the montecolino peninsula (left) and the parking area for the thirty 100 x 16 meter sections on lake iseo (right)
photo by wolfgang volz, april 2016




jeanne-claude passed away in november 2009, but christo continues the couple’s monumental practice. in 2014, the artist and his team scouted the lakes of northern italy and found lake iseo to be the most inspiring location for the project. the exhibition marks christo’s first large scale work following christo and jeanne-claude’s realization of ‘the gates’ back in in 2005. after the 16-day exhibition in italy, all components will be removed and industrially recycled.

christo floating piers
aerial view of the project’s building yard on the montecolino peninsula (right) and the temporary storage on lake iseo (left)
photo by wolfgang volz, february 2016




the artists’ aim has always been to create works of art for the public to experience and enjoy, without charging any viewing fees. ‘like all of our projects, ‘the floating piers’ is absolutely free and accessible 24 hours a day, weather permitting,’ christo says. ‘there are no tickets, no openings, no reservations and no owners. the floating piers are an extension of the street and belong to everyone.’


see sketches and drawings of ‘the floating piers’ by christo in our previous coverage of the installation here

christo floating piers
during the life-size test at montecolino, christo is delighted as the piers undulate with the movement of the waves
photo by wolfgang volz, october 2015

christo floating piers
workers start to encircle the island of san paolo with the first floating elements
photo by wolfgang volz, april 2016

christo floating piers
workers install the felt that will cover the floating cubes
photo by wolfgang volz, may 2016

christo floating piers
felt is added to the piers before the yellow fabric is installed
photo by wolfgang volz, may 2016

christo floating piers
the felt that will cover the cubes underneath the yellow fabric is transported from montecolino to san paolo island by elimast helicopter service
photo by wolfgang volz, may 2016

christo floating piers
at the headquarters in montecolino, construction workers assemble the piers, which are produced in 100-meter-long segments and stored outside montecolino on lake iseo
photo by wolfgang volz, january 2016

christo floating piers
at geo – die luftwerker, 75,000 square meters of yellow fabric are sewn into panels, lübeck, germany
photo by wolfgang volz, february 2016

christo floating piers
at the textile manufacturer setex, 90,000 square meters of shimmering yellow fabric are produced
photo by wolfgang volz, august 2014

christo floating piers
at a factory in fondotoce at lago magiore, 200,000 high-density polyethylene cubes are manufactured
photo by wolfgang volz, january 2016

christo floating piers
the cubes have been manufactured over a period of eight months before delivered to the project’s storage in montecolino
photo by wolfgang volz, january 2016

christo floating piers
christo in his studio working on a preparatory drawing for the floating piers, new york, november 2015
photo by wolfgang volz © 2015 christo

christo to connect italy's lake iseo with floating golden fabric piers
collage, 2014
17 x 22″ (43.2 x 55.9 cm) /pencil, wax crayon, enamel paint, photograph by wolfgang volz, map, fabric sample and tape 
photo by andré grossmann © 2014 christo

christo floating piers
collage, 2014 — in two parts
12 x 30 1/2″ and 26 1/4 x 30 1/2″ (30.5 x 77.5 cm and 66.7 x 77.5 cm)
pencil, charcoal, pastel, wax crayon, fabric, enamel paint, cut-out photographs by wolfgang volz and map
photo by andré grossmann © 2014 christo

  • The excessive use of materials is extremely out of touch… the article states that the material will be recycled but the energy consumed producing (and for the matter recycling) all of that plastic and textile is unacceptable for a 16 day installation

    rmauti says:
  • Christo es Genial!!!!!!!!!!

  • I worked on the Surrounded Island installation in Miami, and I know for a fact that All of the pink polyethylene plastic went into a landfill – I know because I was part of the crew that towed it there.
    I love Christo’s work – there’s no doubt that he is a great artist. I hope he follows through with the recycling.

    trimtab21 says:
  • I could’nt agree more ! And is it unfair to ask who is paying aud how much for these 16 days or émotion ?

    Maraud says:
  • A Christo project spells detailed documentation and publicity. Please use the same to report what happens to all all the materials after the show. I hope Christo and partner will also bother to find out where all the materials they used before really went as they are definitely not in their backyard!

    Impy Pilapil says:
  • The excessive degree of ignorance and lack of sensitivity projecting out of the initial comment is quite striking. A desperate little eco-know-better trying to score some points against one of the few contemporary artists that still brings fascination, enthusiasm, and beauty to the world.

    Michae Kozel says:
  • Agreed, his work is exceptional in vision but we all live on this planet together. Great art and sustainable practices don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

    Christopher Stevens says:

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