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.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
health
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
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
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

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform