Lanzarote is a magic small island in the Atlantic, off the coast of Africa, part of the Spanish Canary Islands. Though it’s not as popular as Gran Canaria or Tenerife, tourism developed on Lanzarote as well and owes some of its attractions to a great artist, Cesar Manrique. So, let’s start our discovery of Lanzarote with Fundacion Cesar Manrique, his first finished work on the island, and also his home for twenty years.
About Cesar Manrique
Cesar Manrique is probably the most prominent figure of Lanzarote. An architect and artist, Manrique was for his home island Lanzarote, what Gaudi was for Barcelona. After living in Madrid and New York, the artist returned to Lanzarote and played an active role in regulating constructions on the island for a sustainable future.
He is the main reason why there is only one tall building on Lanzarote, and also why constructions everywhere on the island stick to a simple chromatic.
He got also involved in building or developing some of the most important tourist attractions in Lanzarote. Fundacion Cesar Manrique, his foundation is now among those attractions and I thought it was the best place to discover the artist.
Fundacion Cesar Manrique – The Story
When Cesar Manrique moved back to Lanzarote in 1966, he was already involved in a project at the tourist center at Jameos del Agua. He was developing a vision of bringing nature into everyday life and creating art in the process.
He found a plot of land covered in lava near Tahiche where a fig tree made its way out of the dead lava field. This is how he discovered the bubbles created during the lava flow and imagined a unique house.
A couple of years later, Manrique moved into his new home and studio, a perfect display of his vision for Lanzarote. He became an activist for the sustainable development of the island.
A Visit to Fundacion Cesar Manrique
As you enter the house from the courtyard, it seems to have many traditional elements of Canarian architecture. The low white house with wooden shutters seems a classic house of the island. This first impression quickly fades away as you step through the house and observe the garden with the scenic pool below.
The route starts through the art gallery at the street level then descends to the volcanic rooms. Cesar Manrique built these unique rooms and passages inside natural volcanic bubbles. The five volcanic bubbles were transformed into living space and connected with passages. Everything inside them is designed with as little intervention as possible, a sofa, a table, some plants, a fountain. The space is functional but respectful to its primary form.
Next, you’ll see the red room with red cushions and also a red statue representing a couple. At the center of the red room, a fig goes up through a hole in the roof towards the sun.
Then, you’ll find yourself outside, in the garden below ground level. At the center, a small swimming pool contrasts with the black lava walls. The colors in this inner courtyard are the truest colors of Lanzarote: blue water, green, white, and also the black lava everywhere.
On the other side of the pool, you will enter another volcanic bubble, then climb the stairs to the ground level. This is the space where Cesar Manrique had his studio. It is now an art gallery where you can see his work.
However, the most striking piece of art, in my opinion, is the window of the studio. Manrique designed the window to incorporate the lava spill, and bring the landscape inside the studio. It is one of the features that explain best the artist’s vision.
Art is everywhere in this space of the Cesar Manrique Foundation. In the modern art gallery inside you will also find Picasso or Joan Miro drawings. In the garden outside there are various art objects Manrique has created out of scrap metal and other debris.
Lanzarote is a small island but public transport is not ideal if you want to move around the island. Renting a car is the best option to visit the attractions scattered around the island. Fundacion Cesar Manrique is just a 10 minutes drive from the island’s capital, Arrecife.
The foundation is open every day from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM and a full ticket costs 8€. Another option is a 15€ ticket option including a visit to Cesar Manrique’s house in Haria where he moved for the last few years of his life. More about the hours, here.
As you exit, you can have a snack at the café and browse through the souvenir shop.
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Have you been to Lanzarote or another of the Canary Islands? Tell me all about it in the comments below.