A stunningly unusual visual experience with black volcanic rock and soil as a backdrop, dazzling low-rise white buildings with green shutters and sub-tropical vegetation lending a splash of colour, has inspired countless artists... and especially César Manrique, whose love of his island home of Lanzarote is mirrored everywhere.
César Manrique, the award-winning Lanzarotean artist, sculptor and architect, died some ten years ago but his heritage lives on, not only in island history but also and often unconsciously in the memories of tourists who may not have realised that the sympathetic development of this beautiful island was Manrique’s life’s work. In addition to sculptures and paintings, his artistic take on nature’s gifts of sun, sand and volcanic landscape has left an architectural legacy that is world famous and makes the island unique. The artist’s influence led to regulation of development but his vision was never of an unchanging island, more one that should accentuate its own natural beauty.
A Volcanic Masterpiece
For something really extraordinary, with a breathtaking flavour of Manrique’s vision, visit the Fundación César Manrique just north of the island capital Arrecife. For a while this was the artist’s home. It is built around a ground-floor series of five (each five metres in diameter) volcanic ‘bubbles’ that had previously been buried within the lava. Manrique transformed these underground ‘bubbles’ into stunning rooms, each with its own unique design. The Fundación and its art gallery, featuring Manrique’s own art collection – including some original sketches by Picasso and Joan Miró – together with examples of his own work, attract some 300,000 visitors a year.
The artist’s final creation was the fascinating Jardín de Cactus in an old quarry of volcanic ash used by farmers to cover their crops to retain night-time humidity. The garden displays a collection of over 1,000 different species. A restored windmill and several metal sculptures stand out against the black volcanic landscape. Throughout the island you’ll come across many other sculptures and wind chimes.
Fusing Art with Nature
Earlier, again fusing art with nature, Manrique created a huge and magical concert venue/nightclub as part of a naturally beautiful underground environment – a series of volcanic caverns and subterranean lakes created by a volcanic eruption some three to four thousand years ago. These lie to the north-east at Jameos del Agua (Water Caverns), linked by the longest volcanic tunnel in the world, the seven km-long Atlantida Tunnel, to Cueva de los Verdes (Cave of the Greens – called after the mosses than cling to the cave walls). In these stunning volcanic galleries the original Canarians or Guanches hid from marauding pirates. One of the caves, Jameo Chico, has an underground salt water lagoon which is home to a species of almost invisible, blind albino crab that is found here and nowhere else in the world.
At the far north of the island, Manrique created the Mirador del Río, a viewpoint on a 475 metre high escarpment overlooking the strait of Río towards the island of La Graciosa. The name Mirador recalls centuries past when lookouts would watch for pirate ships… Today visitors can enjoy the same views from a café, souvenir shop and platform built into the volcanic rock.
César Manrique also designed el Diablo (The Devil), an impressive round glass-walled restaurant at Montañas de Fuego (Fire Mountains) in the extraordinary volcanic Timanfaya National Park in the south-west of the of the island. The restaurant uses volcanic heat to cook customers’ menu choices.
Yet another Manrique masterpiece is the fabulous lagoon-shaped saltwater pool fronting the Atlantic at the Hotel Gran Meliá Salinas. This beautiful, 272 room 5* hotel is highly recommended by Jet2holidays.com for its superb architecture and dornments, from sculptures, stonework and murals to indoor gardens and fountains. Space, airiness and natural colours enhance the luxurious interiors while outside palm trees and sub-tropical gardens, a rustic wooden bridge, waterfalls and wicker parasols lend a wonderfully natural air to the sculpted lagoon. The hotel is situated 500 metres from the resort centre, on lovely Las Cucharas beach on Lanzarote’s popular Costa Teguise, and its significantly superior surroundings, service and facilities, including a top-of-the-range wellness centre and gym. Inspired by César Manrique, the Gran Meliá Salinas blended art and architecture in breathtaking fashion, creating an exquisite showcase of nature’s gifts to the island. Here guests can experience 21st-century Lanzarote as this extraordinary artist must surely have envisioned it.