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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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Jim Dwyer writes lovely human-interest stories for the NY Times. On September 5, he wrote about a guy who plays music by the Hudson River for an audience of birds, fish, and whatever friends or strangers wander by.

On Tuesday morning, Jose Modesto Castillo, retired from a job in a plastics factory, walked just about as far west in northern Manhattan as it is possible to go, to the end of a long pier fingering into the Hudson River at Dyckman Street. A harmonica rigged to his head was just a breath away from his lips. Lashed to his hands with hair ties were 17 miniature percussion instruments made from items like a Snapple cap, the lid of a prescription bottle, a Spider-Man figurine, the shells of plastic eggs that once held toys from supermarket vending machines.

“Strike up the one-man mambo band.

“Mr. Modesto’s mouth danced across the harmonica, and his fingers made rhythm out of junk. He played and he bobbed. At the end of the nameless number, he raised his arms as if waving to the Palisades on the far shore. Suddenly, he noticed that he was being watched, and called out, ‘Hello señor,’ and burst into a laugh.

“It was the Tuesday after Labor Day, the first day after the spiritual end of summer, though not yet the true beginning of autumn. At the pier and tiny cove on Dyckman Street, calendars were beside the point. Mr. Modesto, 66, comes every day to play, even if only the birds and fish are there to hear him.”

Some artists can get joy even if no one is around. As a musician, Modesto sees potential in bottle caps and plastic eggshells the way a painter might see it in clouds or the sun on the subway stairs.

Read more.

Photograph: Marcus Yam for the NY Times

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