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Christo's Paris notes

By Christo / September 4, 1985



Christo's spectacular fabrics and fences have caused many to look freshly at islands, cliffs, fields, and other parts of the natural environment. Later this month Paris will see what he has called his most urban project, turning a historic bridge, ``temporarily at least,'' into a sculpture. Thanks to the artist for the following notes on his Wrapped Pont Neuf, and for the accompanying photographs of preparation for the project. THE Seine plays a role for Paris which cannot be compared to that of any other river that borders or dissects the great cities of the world. Because the Seine and its banks offer the richest variety of visual impacts, it is possible to do an important river project in Paris.

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The decision to wrap the Pont Neuf was inspired by its quite particular position, joining the Left and the Right Banks and the Ile de la Cit'e -- the heart of Paris for over 2,000 years.

Begun under Henri III on May 31, 1578, the Pont Neuf was completed in July 1606, during the reign of Henri IV. As Bernard de Montgolfier wrote: ``Until that time, Paris had had to be satisfied with the double line of bridges linking the Ile de la Cit'e to the two banks of the Seine. It should not be forgotten that, before the Pont Neuf, Paris's bridges each had two rows of houses between which a narrow walkway stretched as if it were a street, which completely obstructed the view of the river. The passe rsby were at last able to discover the Seine, the river traffic which gave it life, and the magnificent scenery of its banks. Its arches, in unequal number to each side of the tip of the Island, span the river on piers of an especially original design. Their buttresses have corbelling of rounded shapes, broadening out in half circles to the level of the roadway. Another particularity of the Pont Neuf is its sculptured decoration.''

No other bridge in Paris offers such topographical and visual variety, today as in the past. From 1578 to 1890, the Pont Neuf underwent continual changes and additions of the most extravagant sort, such as the boutiques of Soufflot, and the construction, demolition, reconstruction, and once again demolition of the massive rococo structure which housed the Samaritaine's water pump.

Wrapping the Pont Neuf will continue the tradition of successive metamorphoses by presenting a new sculptural dimension and in becoming, for a few days, a work of art itself. Ropes will hold down the shiny, sandstone-colored cloth to the bridge's surface and maintain the principal shapes, accentuating reliefs while generalizing proportions and details.

The Wrapped Pont Neuf will include: the sides and vaults of the 12 arches, without hindering river traffic in the least; the parapets down to the ground; the sidewalks and curbs (pedestrians will easily be able to walk on the cloth); all of the streetlamps on both sides of the bridge (the light will shine easily through the cloth); the vertical part of the embankment of the western tip of the Ile de la Cit'e.

During the different stages of the project, car, boat, and pedestrian traffic will be neither slowed down nor hindered in any way. All expenses related to the Wrapped Pont Neuf Project will be borne by me, as with all my other projects.