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In Memoriam – Christo Javacheff 1935-2020

I read with great sadness that the artist Christo Javacheff passed away on 31 May 2020 in his home in New York. I had gotten to know the artist and his late wife/ collaborator while working on the Reichstag project in Berlin in 1995 before, during and after the wrapping of the Reichstag. Their project office was immediately below the Foster office for the reconstruction of the building opposite the parliament building. The hectic summer of 1995 coincided with delivery of our building project and their amazing performance piece that was prepared over decades and appeared in two months before, lasted over two weeks, and disappeared again one month later.

The attention to detail of both Christo and Jean Claude and their core team was impressive – structural engineers, lawyers, rapelling specialists, photographers, fabric engineers and logistics specialists were impressive as were the behind the scenes preparations for the art world press and events that would coincide with the exhibition of the piece. Safety crews, lighting crews and volunteer guides were an additional army of people in themselves and it was inspiring to see the expectation and wonder as the piece came together for those magical two weeks from the front row of the performance.

I was lucky to share a number of conversations and meals with both Christo and Jean Claude as well as their talented teams during this time. Despite having known of his work and tireless dedication to projects previously – I had not appreciated the human dimension of his visionary and warm presence. I came to understand that he worked with some of his team for decades around the world to carry out amazing feats and then take them apart – for the joy of doing it. He was a unique and gifted artist who brought joy to many.  He will be sorely missed.