If you’ve visited an art museum, you are probably familiar with the feeling of silent awe and inspiration provoked by pieces that move you. If such remarkable emotions are elicited by viewing something, imagine the sensations attached to an interactive art installation that immerses you in its full experience. And imagine if this interactive work of art was placed in an exotic setting, surrounded by picturesque scenes that seem transported out of a travel brochure. Sound surreal?

The Floating Piers, an art installation that was displayed on Italy’s Lake Iseo from June 18 to July 3, 2016, allowed for all of the above.

The exhibit, which was free and open to the public, gave art fanatics the opportunity to feel as if they could walk on water. The pier consisted of yellow fabric held up by hundreds of thousands of floating plastic cubes and extended for nearly two miles on both pedestrian streets and across the lake. Heightening its exquisiteness, the coloration of the fabric fluctuated between shades of red and gold as the water and surrounding light shifted.

Geographically speaking, the pier allowed visitors to walk from the Italian commune of Sulzano to the town of Monte Isola to the island of San Paolo. Certain features of the pier were strategically placed to accentuate its undulating movement—the water’s motion created the illusion that the pier was breathing. Those who experienced the pier compared it to being on a slightly rocky boat!

Who could have dreamed such a unique installation? Husband and wife artist duo, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, conceived the idea in 1970. Jeanne-Claude passed away in 2009, and five years later Christo found Lake Iseo in Italy’s Lombardo region to be an ideal location for their unrealized project. Christo is a conceptual artist who focuses on impermanence. He and Jeanne-Claude created works so that they belonged to everyone for just a short period of time.

The Floating Piers was fully funded by the sale of Christo’s original artwork. In total, the project cost $16.8 million. When the 16-day exhibition was completed, all components were removed and recycled.

Christo himself emphasizes that this project’s most important component was its “nomadic quality.” His idea is that to really experience his art, you have to soak in your surroundings and feel the physicality of the project’s nature. He wants people to fully immerse themselves in art, not just glance at it briefly and move along.

Did You Know?

The artists behind The Floating Piers were not only husband and wife, they were both born on the same day: June 13, 1935.

Image credit: Marcio De Assis