After nearly 50 years of planning, 81-year-old Bulgarian-American artist Christo has finally realized The Floating Piers, a two-mile walkway of undulating gold that will allow visitors to step, like Jesus, across the surface of the water to two small islands on Italy’s Lake Iseo.
Although The Floating Piers resemble bolts of saffron fabric unrolled across the surface of the Lombardy region lake and wrapped arounds its two small islands, they are quite safe to walk upon.
Underneath the fabric are 220,000 separate polyethylene cubes, which are affixed to the bottom of Lake Iseo by over 190 concrete slabs almost like buoys, so that they are safe to walk across, even as they bob and sway. The artist himself has described the sensation as being like “walking on the back of a whale.”
Attempts to get The Floating Piers made began 46 years ago, with South America’s Río de la Plata as a suggested site. That plan fell through, as well as an attempt to bring The Floating Piers to Tokyo Bay. But once Lake Iseo was identified as a site for the project, it took relatively little time to create: just 22 months, during which a team of engineers, French divers, and even a group of Bulgarian athletes—working as literal manpower in an eccentric touch by Christo—helped construct the piece. The finishing touch was the fabric covering, which has been designed to change color depending on weather conditions, temperature, and moisture.
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