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.

Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Sport
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
News
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
Extras
indybest10 best gardening gloves
News
Russia's President Vladimir Putin gives his annual televised question-and-answer session
peopleBizarre TV claim
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
Arts & Entertainment
Comedian Lenny Henry is calling for more regulation to support ethnic actors on TV
tvActor and comedian leads campaign against 'lack of diversity' in British television
News
Posted at the end of March, this tweeted photo was a week off the end of their Broadway shows
people
News
peopleStar to remain in hospital for up to 27 days to get over allergic reaction
Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Life & Style
life
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
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    NGO and Community Development in Cambodia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...

    Sports coaching volunteer jobs

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Kaya Responsible Travel offer a variety of sp...

    Turtle Nesting and Coral Reef Conservation in Borneo

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Volunteer with Kaya in Borneo and work on a p...

    Elephant research project in Namibia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: If you have a passion for elephants and want ...

    Day In a Page

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit