Surrounded Islands in Biscayne Bay (1983)


On May 7, 1983 the installation of Surrounded Islands was completed. In Biscayne Bay, between the city of Miami, North Miami, the Village of Miami Shores and Miami Beach, 11 of the islands situated in the area of Bakers Haulover Cut, Broad Causeway, 79th Street Causeway, Julia Tuttle Causeway, and Venetian Causeway were surrounded with 585,000 square meters (6.5 million square feet) of pink woven polypropylene fabric covering the surface of the water, floating and extending out 61 meters (200 feet) from each island into the Bay. The fabric was sewn into 79 patterns to follow the contours of the 11 islands.

For 2 weeks Surrounded Islands spreading over 11.3 kilometers (7 miles) was seen, approached and enjoyed by the public, from the causeways, the land, the water and the air. The luminous pink color of the shiny fabric was in harmony with the tropical vegetation of the uninhabited verdant island, the light of the Miami sky and the colors of the shallow waters of Biscayne Bay.

Since April 1981, attorneys Joseph Z. Fleming, Joseph W. Landers, marine biologist Dr. Anitra Thorhaug, ornithologists Dr. Oscar Owre and Meri Cummings, mammal expert Dr. Daniel Odell, marine engineer John Michel, 4 consulting engineers, and builder-contractor, Ted Dougherty of A and H Builders,Inc. had been working on the preparation of the Surrounded Islands. The marine and land crews picked up debris from the eleven islands, putting refuse in bags and carting it away after they had removed some forty tons of varied garbage: refrigerator doors, tires,kitchen sinks, mattresses and an abandoned boat.

Permits were obtained from the following governmental agencies: The Governor of Florida and the Cabinet; the Dade County Commission; the Department of Environmental Regulation; the City of Miami Commission; the City of North Miami; the Village of Miami Shores; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; the Dade County Department of Environmental Resources Management.

From November 1982 until April 1983, 6,500,000 square feet of woven polypropylene fabric were sewn at the rented Hialeah factory, into 79 different patterns to follow the contours of the 11 islands. A flotation strip was sewn in each seam. At the Opa Locka Blimp Hangar, the sewn sections were accordion folded to ease the unfurling on the water.

The outer edge of the floating fabric was attached to a 30.5 centimeter (12 inch) diameter octagonal boom, in sections, of the same color as the fabric. The boom was connected to the radial anchor lines which extended from the anchors at the island to the 610 specially made anchors, spaced at 15.3 meter (50 foot) intervals, 76 meters (250 feet) beyond the perimeter of each island, driven into the limestone at the bottom of the Bay. Earth anchors were driven into the land, near the foot of the trees, to secure the inland edge of the fabric, covering the surface of the beach and disappearing under the vegetation.

The floating rafts of fabric and booms, varying from 3.7 to 6.7 meters (12 to 22 feet) in width and from 122 to 183 meters (400 to 600 feet) in length were towed through the Bay to each island. There were 11 islands, but on two occasions, two islands were surrounded together as one configuration.

As with Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s previous art projects, Surrounded Islands was entirely financed by the artists, through the sale by C.V.J. Corporation (Jeanne-Claude Christo-Javacheff, President) of the preparatory pastel and charcoal drawings, collages, lithographs and early works.

On May 4, 1983, out of a total work force of 430, the unfurling crew began to blossom the pink fabric. Surrounded Islands was tended day and night by 120 monitors in inflatable boats.

Surrounded Islands was a work of art which underlined the various elements and ways in which the people of Miami live, between land and water.

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