While many people think of holidays to Lanzarote as being about nothing more than relaxing in the Canary Islands’ warm winter sun, there is much more to the island than beaches and bars. A wonderful way to access the cultural heart of this beautiful island is to see it through the eyes of one of its most celebrated sons: artist, sculpture and architect César Manrique. |
Living the Life of an Artist
Born in Arrecife in Lanzarote in 1919, Manrique fought in the Spanish Civil War before starting an architecture degree at the University of La Laguna. However, he soon realised that art was his true calling and after two years he gave up his degree to study at the Art School of San Fernando.
After a brief spell in New York, where he was awarded a grant by Nelson Rockefeller and held several exhibitions, Manrique returned to Lanzarote in 1966 when he predicted tourism was going to have a dramatic affect on the island he loved.
As an artist, Manrique was not against tourism on the island – to the contrary he welcomed it, wanting visitors to enjoy their holidays to Lanzarote. But he was concerned about unstructured development destroying the island’s beauty, as he believed had happened in other tourist destinations. For this reason he became very involved in planning to ensure sympathetic development of tourism. You can still see the impact he has had today.
The César Manrique Foundation
The artist clearly believed that conservation should begin at home, because one of the first things he did was to design himself a beautiful house built into the volcanic landscape. It was a way of showing developers and planners how beautiful structures could blend seamlessly with the landscape instead of destroying it.
Visitors are welcome to the house today to discover the rooms sculpted out of volcanic ‘bubbles’.
Castillo de San Jose
It is also possible to see the artist’s influence on one of Lanzarote’s leading cultural sites, the Castillo de San Jose. Manrique’s conservation of the site – a former fort built in 1774 – and introduction of an art museum on its grounds has proved a popular tourist attraction.
Jameos del Agua
Not content with just cultural sites, the artist decided to create a leisure space for those taking holidays to Lanzarote. The result was the impressive nightclub the Jameos del Agua, literally hewn from the island’s natural landscape.
Built into the volcanic rock, the artist used lava tubes to create openings into the complex. He added to this a spectacular natural stone staircase which sweeps down to the statement bar overlooking a subterranean lake. There is also a network of tunnels leading to an open-air cave surrounded by palm trees – a truly unique leisure space.
To discover Manrique’s creations is to see the island through the eyes of one of its most celebrated sons: a man who once said that if he could only make others see Lanzarote through his eyes, they would see it as the most beautiful place on earth.
John Dixon is an experienced world traveller and the Managing Director of Prestige Holidays. For over 30 years, he has been providing luxury holidays to Lanzarote, Bermuda, Sicily and many other destinations around the globe. John tries to visit each of the destinations regularly in order to ensure the quality of his properties, and stay up-to-date about the latest local news and events. He has a taste for the finer things in life and has an interest in arts, history and culture.
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