Today I want to talk about one man who had a huge influence on beautiful Lanzarote, Cesar Manrique. Likewise, I could say that I will write about a huge man and his influence on this small island of the Canaries.
I already mentioned some of his works in my previous articles about Lanzarote. However, today I would like to focus more on the man and his vision and less on any single piece of work.
About Cesar Manrique and his life
Cesar Manrique was born and grew up in Lanzarote, a small island in the Canaries. He studied in Tenerife, then moved to Madrid for about 20 years. By the time he moved to New York he was a well-known artist. He endeavored in sculpture, painting, design, and architecture. He now lived in big cities but his inspiration came from the bare volcanic landscape of his home island. So, in 1966, aged 47 he moved back to his native Lanzarote. From that moment, the island became his canvas and his heritage.
The unique vision of Cesar Manrique
To put it simply, Cesar Manrique saw nature as unpolished art. It just needed a light touch to reach its potential as artwork, so anyone could see its pure beauty. “I miss the purity of nature“, he said, while still in New York.
Back home, he started working on projects that would allow the natural features of Lanzarote to become tourist attractions. He also became a tireless environmental activist, campaigning for sustainable development in Lanzarote.
All his works reflect his vision of integrating nature into art and art into nature. Architecture and design shouldn’t aim to modify the natural landscape, but rather to bring out its essence.
For me, the most amazing piece is this window in his Taro de Tahice house. It expresses perfectly Manrique’s vision of design and nature brought together.
The incredible heritage of Cesar Manrique in Lanzarote
The heritage of Cesar Manrique in Lanzarote and the rest of the Canary archipelago is difficult to gauge. He created gardens in deserted places, transformed collapsed caves, designed lookouts, and also turned junk into sculptures. Nothing was worthless for Cesar Manrique. He saw beauty and found art anywhere.
“For me, (Lanzarote) it was the most beautiful place on Earth and I realized that if people could see it through my eyes, they’d think the same” (Cesar Manrique)
Some of the best places to visit in Lanzarote have been imagined and designed by Cesar Manrique:
- Los Jameos del Agua, the place where part of a lava tube and a collapsed cave became something else. The complex includes a restaurant, an auditorium, and a beautiful volcanic garden;
- Fundacion Cesar Manrique, the house and studio of the artist in Tahice for a long time. It now hosts the headquarters of his foundation. Taro de Tahice is perhaps the place which incapsulates best his vision about art and nature brought together;
- Jardin de Cactus, the garden with more than 1000 different types of cacti, close to Guatiza;
- Mirador del Rio – a building almost invisible from the outside. It’s a great viewpoint over El Rio Strait between Lanzarote and La Graciosa island;
- El Diablo Restaurant at the main attraction of Lanzarote, Timanfaya National Park. The unique feature of this restaurant is that it has a barbecue that uses volcanic heat to cook.
- Museo Cesar Manrique, the house and studio Manrique built for himself in Haria, in the last part of his life;
- Al Campesino, a museum dedicated to the peasants working the harsh fields of Lanzarote. The iconic Fertility sculpture stands 15m tall by the museum.
Manrique’s continuing influence
These are just the most iconic works of Cesar Lanzarote, but there are many more places where he was involved, museums as well as private projects. Some of the most visible pieces designed by Cesar Manrique throughout Lanzarote are the wind chime sculptures.
The other aspect, where Cesar Manrique left his mark on Lanzarote island is in its building regulations. As an environmental activist, he was very involved in the development plans for his home-island. He is the reason why Lanzarote preserved its identity and its traditional charm.
There is only one tall building in Lanzarote, a hotel in Arrecife. For all the rest, the island respects the height and color restrictions. The houses are white and only use blue or green for the wooden elements. Lanzarote island looks like a coherent piece of design. The most important element Cesar Manrique added to its architecture was his supreme respect for nature and the environment.
Most of Manrique’s energy went into Lanzarote, but he also worked on several projects on other islands of the archipelago: Tenerife, Fuerteventura, la Gomera, and also El Hierro.
Plan your visit to Lanzarote
Lanzarote Island is easily accessible with frequent flights from mainland Spain, UK, or Ireland. Budget companies like Ryanair and EasyJet land at Arrecife airport daily.
The weather is great in any season, so you can plan your visit at any time of the year. The average temperatures during the winter range from 20 to 25 degrees C so it’s very comfortable.
The island isn’t large, and you can drive anywhere in one hour. You can rent a car for a few days and explore Cesar Manrique’s art centers on Lanzarote, as well as beaches and the inland traditional villages.
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