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Christo is known for making impossible-seeming public art, and just recently, he made some again. Margaret Rhodes reported the story at Wired magazine.

“It takes serious engineering to let 640,000 people walk on water. Luckily, that’s exactly the kind of technical and creative challenge that Christo — the artist who wrapped the Reichstag and dotted Central Park with 7,503 orange panels of fabric—excels at. …

“The new project, the ‘Floating Piers,’ comprises two miles of marigold-yellow walkways gently bobbing on top of Lake Iseo, a small lake in northern Italy, connecting the waterside town of Sulzano with two small islands. …

“Making them work was tricky. Marinas often use temporary, floating piers; a common technique involves propping them atop styrofoam cubes. ‘We discovered very soon that this cube system was perfect for us,’ says Wolfgang Volz, Christo’s project manager. So in the fall of 2014, Christo’s team ran a secret simulation of the Floating Piers in Germany. But the styrofoam blocks were too small and too dense.

“So they built their own blocks—220,000 in total. They’re about 20 percent bigger than the ones marinas use, and more buoyant. A Bulgarian company supplied the materials, and Christo hired four different manufacturing companies to ensure they’d have enough.

“Once Christo had his blocks, he, Volz, and a few dozen workers started connecting the cubes into 50- by 330-foot sections. They attached the cubes with giant screws, right on the water, in a corralled section of Lake Iseo.

“One by one, workers pushed the white styrofoam rafts out into the lake and anchored them to 5.5-ton concrete slabs arranged on the lake floor in a configuration conceived by Christo. ‘Very tedious work,’ Volz says. ‘Every day the same.’

“It took four months, with workers doing shifts of two weeks on, two weeks off the job. ‘The same as an oil rig schedule,’ Volz says.’ ” More here.

Temporary, like most of Christo’s work, the walkway was scheduled to come down early this month and get recycled. But it lives on in photographs — and the memories of those who visited and got a chance to walk on water.

Photo: Wolfgang Volz
Christo’s project the “Floating Piers” comprised two miles of marigold-yellow walkways on Lake Iseo in northern Italy. Visitors walked the path without handrails.

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You may have read about the monumental projects of the artist Christo. Perhaps you even went to see “The Gates” when his orange banners dotted Central Park.

Well, Christo is at it again, proposing to “drape 5.9 miles of fabric across a 42-mile stretch of the river” in Colorado for two weeks. And he’s once again exposing himself to the hostility of people who feel passionately protective of a particular space. It’s the cost of doing business.

In this February 10 Denver Post article: “Christo sits stone-faced as they call him a liar, a cheater, a con man, a killer, as they politely suggest he is a fool, as they angrily denounce him as an enemy of nature. He is the world’s most famous artist and this is what he must endure for these odd projects he dreams up. Here, in southern Colorado, where he hopes to drape 5.9 miles of silvery fabric over the Arkansas River, it is the same as it was in Manhattan where he battled 25 years to hang orange material from 7,503 gates in Central Park, and in Berlin, where he had to persuade 612 German parliamentarians, one by one, to let him wrap his cloth around the Reichstag.” Read more.

Whatever else you might say about him, the man has patience. An even more recent article in the Denver Post, February 22, indicates that he has moved the target date from August 2014 to August 2015. (The first of many target dates was summer 2001.)

“At the two final public hearings for the Over the River project earlier this month, the Fremont County Board of Commissioners fielded almost 10 hours of heated support and opposition as well as 575 letters. On Tuesday, the three-member board decided it would not make a decision regarding the artist’s request for a temporary-use permit at its next scheduled meeting Feb. 28.

” ‘We simply feel we are not ready for a formal vote,’ said Commissioner Debbie Bell, noting that the board is scripting a list of conditions for the project. The board could make a final decision at its March 13 or March 27 meeting, she said. …

“Christo’s decision to delay reflects his desire to share yet-to-be-developed emergency-management plans that detail traffic, safety and other issues during the installation process. It also restores the 28-month construction period, which was pinched when federal approval stretched nearly three years.” Read more.

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