“The New York Times” named Christo’s installation “The Floating Piers” at Lake Iseo among the most influential art pieces of 2016. The floating structure, which created vibrant walkways between the small down of Sulzano and the islands of Monte Isola and San Paolo, was entirely engineered and executed by BulDock’s team. The 3.2 km-long, 16 m-wide floating structure was opened to the public for 16 days and was then dismantled and recycled.
The Story behind “The Floating Piers” and BulDock
BulDock was the main contractor of the world famous art installation ‘The Floating Piers’ created by Christo and Jeanne-Claude. The project on Lake Iseo, Italy, was accomplished due to the longstanding friendship between the managing director of the project Vladimir YAVACHEV and Rosen JELIAZKOV, who are both working partners in the non-profit foundation BSTD Underwater Explorers.
Christo assigned to Rosen the entire implementation of the concept including the manufacture, assembly and installation of the floating structures.
For 16 days on end, between June 18th and July 3rd 2016, ‘The Floating Piers’ on Lake Iseo were visited by over one million people. The history behind the hit art project, however, started no less than two years before that when Christo and Rosen started to work out the details of the installation.
It was in June 2014 when Christo and Vladimir YAVACHEV presented to Rosen JELIAZKOV their idea about ‘The Floating Piers’. The world acclaimed artist insisted that the pontoons must not deviate from their axis even in rough seas which required the creation of an innovative anchorage system. Rosen also shared his initial views about the concept and its implementation.
In the late summer of 2014 near Hamburg, Germany, in secret from the public, the first test of the facility modules was carried out. It was at that time when the final choices were made about the form of the cubes, the height of the pier and the coating materials. It was decided that ‘The Floating Piers’ would be implemented with self-produced and specifically designed for the purpose cubes with the needed size and shape.
In February 2015, detailed tests of the facility were conducted in open waters. The first test of the model for anchorage system was carried out in the Black Sea near Sozopol, Bulgaria. The results obtained from the simulations confirmed the high resistance of the structure in rough seas, the big loading capacity as well as its flawless operation. The visual effect of a platform floating on the water was achieved with an otherwise stable and well-anchored structure.
THE FLOATING MODULAR PONTOONS
It took four months for the 220,000 cubes and connecting pins to be produced by four Italian factories. Unlike the cubes offered then by other manufacturers, the ones for the project were all made from recycled material. Pure polyethylene /HDPE/ of the highest quality was used for ‘The Floating Piers’ project.
The purpose was to increase the strength and elasticity of the cubes. To further test their strength, numerous laboratory trials had been conducted confirming that the achieved quality of the products was probably the best in the world at that time.
The cubes were assembled in sections with dimensions of 100 m to 16 m. The already completed sections were transported to a constructed water storehouse and stored until the planned dates for their installation. The overall assembly was performed on a specially built-for-purpose ramp in an old aircraft factory on Lake Iseo. These were only the visible part of the floating pontoons which were still to be anchored to the lake bottom.
THE ANCHORING SYSTEMS
The building of an anchorage system for the pontoons around the island of San Paolo was one of the most complex tasks of ‘The Floating Piers’ project. The underwater system of piles allowed movement of the pontoons only in the vertical direction. The final installation also included two types of anchoring systems – a vertical counterweight system as well as a diagonal one with elastic rods Hazelett. They held the pontoons upright and stable even on occasions of heavy waves without losing the floating effect.
For the needs of ‘The Floating Piers’, Vladimir YAVACHEV and Rosen JELIAZKOV specially designed a floating, self-propelled barge which was constructed in less than 60 days in Bulgaria. It was transported by trucks and assembled in Italy in November 2015. The barge was equipped with a pneumatic lifting winch with a capacity of lowering anchors weighing up to 10 tones, a precise navigation system, a sonar to scan the bottom, video surveillance equipment and professional diving systems.
After conducting thorough tests of all parts of the facility, Bureau Veritas certified the project.
COMPLETING THE PROJECT
In May 2016, the connecting and anchoring of the different sections was launched. On the night of 16th of June, and on the 17th June, the pontoons were covered with the orange cloth made in Germany. On the morning of June 18th, the project was officially open for visitors.
The installation was being inspected all day long by diving teams. No problems were encountered with the anchorage system during the duration of the project- they worked perfectly.
July 4th was the starting date of the dismantling of the world famous art installation ‘The Floating Piers’. Within 15 days the surface of the lake was restored to its initial state and the pontoons were returned to the water storehouse. The removal of the anchors was going to take another four months. The lake was to be restored to its original state before the project.