Walking on Water (Lake Iseo)

Walking on Water (Lake Iseo)

The Floating Piers, the last conceptual work by the Land Art Artists Christo and Jeanne Claude on Lake Iseo was opened to the public for less than three weeks in 2016. The Project represented a long-held dream for the artist: the walkway, stretching around 3km and floating on the deep blue water of Lake Iseo, connected Monte Isola, the main mountain-island to the mainland and to San Paolo small private island. Like all Christo’s projects, The Floating Piers, composed of 220,000 high-density polyethylene cubes and covered by a saffron-coloured waterproof nylon fabric, was free of charge and accessible 24 hours a day, becoming an actual extension of the street network which belongs to everyone.

Apart from being a new successful project and having had an incredible international media resonance, able to reserve a place for this small jewel nestled in the Italian Alps into the tourist world maps of top-places-to-see, the event marked the origin and the application of an innovative major event planning and crowd-management model, able to cope with hundreds of thousands of visitors without incidents and injures, within a very short and concentrated timeframe.

After the succesful experience of EXPO 2015, Systematica was appointed to formulate the strategic multimodal accessibility plan of The Floating Piers that was delivered for subsequent translations into the territorial operative plan of Lake Iseo, Italy.

Within a very flexible and well-integrated management configuration, Christo and his organisation were put at the centre of the articulated operational machine, with a Central Operational Unit (COU) of more than 100 people monitoring 24 hours. All interrelated management aspects – safety, information, healthcare, weather forecast, etc. – of the event were tackled with real time and coordinated responses, thanks to a strict and effective collaboration among the organization itself, all public institutions, police forces and voluntary work associations involved.
However, behind the success of this new operational approach, stands an avoidable and multifaceted exercise of planning and definition of strategies to cover all well-round dimensions among which, accessibility and mobility represent one of the most sensitive and crucial aspects to set out. With this respect, the main points of strength of the mobility strategic plan adopted to support the mobility of The Floating Piers visitors were flexibility, constant monitoring, and adaptability.
As first key issue, due to the necessity to ensure an adequate level of comfort and safety, the overall plan was centred around the definition of the maximum pedestrian capacity of walkaway (10,000 people) that, in turn, apart for guiding the safety and evacuation strategies, determined the maximum inbound/ outbound capacity of all mobility systems provided at territorial scale (50,000-60,000 one-way movements per day): railways, roads, ferries as well as soft mobility modes.

View of “The Floating Piers” Walkway.

Due to the articulated orographic configuration of the area, implying significant limits to the overall capacity and flexibility of transport systems, the necessity to optimize all available mobility assets, able to provide strategic accessibility to the site, represented the focal objective. To this end, one of the most strategic aims of the plan was to achieve a balanced and sustainable modal shift through the provision of an integrated transport system. On this concern, the regional and local rail services along the lake were strengthened, an articulated system of temporary remote and more local parking systems, served by bus shuttles, was devised and a wide traffic-restricted area around the site was in force to reduce traffic pressure, protect pedestrian movements and guarantee effective connections with the parking lots.