Art in the landscape César Manrique

Celebrated artist put island’s natural curves and caves on a global stage

When La Corona in northern Lanzarote erupted around 6,500 years ago, it created one of the most interesting volcanic cave systems in the world. Well after the top layers of lava had begun to solidify, the faster-moving lava below kept on flowing, |carving out underground channels as wide as a city street. Pockets of trapped gas became subterranean chambers, some higher than a house.

Today, at ground level, the Malpaís de la Corona is a beautiful wilderness of ancient lava, softened with lichen and a fuzz of hardy, succulent plants. Follow the roads that encircle these badlands and there’s no reason to guess what lies beneath. But the indigenous islanders knew about the caves – they used them as a refuge from slave-hunters and pirates.

Lanzarote’s celebrated artist, designer and conservationist, César Manrique, knew about the caves, too. In the mid-Sixties, he set about transforming one section into a social and cultural venue called Jameos del Agua. His plan was to bring it to life |as “the most beautiful nightclub in the world”.

In reality, he went several stages further. Yes, there’s a perfect little stone-and-whitewash bar and dancefloor, plus a stage where folkloric dancers swirl and clap on Friday and Saturday nights. But there’s also a dramatic restaurant at the foot of |a subterranean cliff, with zingy green foliage tumbling down from above. Beyond lies a mysterious lagoon; further on there’s |a museum of vulcanology.

The biggest surprise is the garden. Manrique created an oasis in a jameo, a former lava bubble the ceiling of which had collapsed to leave a natural sunken amphitheatre. He stuffed its sides with cacti and palms and graced the centre with one of his signature creations, a glossy white pool with luscious curves.

Jameos del Agua was one of the first and most flamboyant of Manrique’s big creative projects, each of which takes a natural setting and enhances it with a little magic. A cactus garden, |a clifftop lookout and a volcano-powered restaurant would follow. From the Sixties to his death in 1992, he was key to the cultural coming-of-age that marked Lanzarote’s growth into an island with architectural integrity and clout.

It was Manrique who codified the Lanzarote aesthetic of beautifully simple, whitewashed buildings set against stark volcanic terrain. Fearful that an “avalanche of tourism” would destroy everything, he drew up guidelines. These have since influenced every local development project, from the restoration of ancient fincas to the construction of five-star resorts.

One of his most intimate creations, and one which best reflects his passionate respect for the island’s unusual landscapes, was his own home, the Taro de Tahiche. Now housing the art and conservation foundation that bears his name, it’s a fascinating building, built on a lava flow that dates back to the 1730s. Its ground floor façade resembles a traditional Canarian house, but step inside and you find yourself in a light-drenched, glass-walled space hung with greats such as Picasso and Miró. Downstairs there’s a playboy lair sculpted out of lava bubbles, and a delicious little pool-party zone.

In the main gallery, panoramic windows offer lava views so dramatic they threaten to upstage the paintings and photography. But to Manrique, this was all part of the plan: he saw nature as the ultimate artist, and himself as just the framemaker. “For me, this island is the most beautiful place on Earth,” he said, “and if others could see it through my eyes, then they’d feel the same. That’s what made me decide to show the world the beauty of Lanzarote.”

* Jameos del Agua (00 34 928 848 020; centrosturisticos.com). Open daily 10am–6.30pm, €8. Evening entrance Tue, Fri and Sat, 7pm–2am, €9.

* Fundación César Manrique (00 34 928 843 138; fcmanrique.org). Open Nov–Jun, Mon–Sat, 10am–6pm; Sun, 10am–3pm; Jul–Oct, daily, 10am–7pm, €8.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power