Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cesar Manrique - Lanzarote

Once in a while you come across an artist whose work you don't appreciate until you've seen it a couple of times. While in Lanzarote, I had this experience with the work of Cesar Manrique who seemed to be single-handedly responsible for the artistic and architectural feel of the island. To be honest, I didn’t realize that the work I’m going to show was all created by the same person until I went to the final site.

My introduction to Manrique’s work was a visit to the Mirador Del Rio, which is a look-out point on the north end of Lanzarote. It is (475 meters) above sea level and is the highest point on the island. It overlooks the ocean and a small island called La Graciosa. What makes this site special isn’t just the view from the top, which is WOW, it’s also the Manrique-designed main building. The building takes advantage of both the geography and geology of the mountain it is on and from the outside looks like a part of the mountain itself. It’s an amazing building on an amazing site that I didn’t really appreciate as much as I should have while I was there.

Here’s part of the view:

And here are some photos of the outside:

And a couple from the inside:

Next, I visited the Jameos del Agua, which I can only really describe as an entire entertainment complex including a bar, restaurant, and amphitheater built inside and around a lava tube that also has a lake in it. Wow. I know. A lot. The same less-than-intense-appreciation thing happened to me here. I noticed the beauty of the site as well as the cool architecture but I didn’t really see it for what it was—as a part of something bigger.

This is the lava-tube-lake area:

and a really cool bar area:

and a view of part of the complex and ocean beyond:

The next stop on the island-wide tour was a visit to the Jardin De Cactus. It seems ironic but the day I was there was the hottest one and it definitely felt desert-like! The really interesting part of the gardens was the way, once again, where Manrique ties the site’s geography/geology into the architecture of the buildings. In this case, the site, walls, and buildings are built in and into a large depression in the ground. One of the highlights is the wall surrounding the entire area. This site didn’t lend itself as well to photo taking but here are two overview shots:

The part of the Manrique tour that made all the pieces fit together was a visit to the house that he designed and built for himself near Arecife on Lanzarote. The house is located on top of a lava flow from the eruptions of the 1700’s (the same ones I mention in the winery story). The main floor of the house is a “normal” style of house although it’s normal only in that it has square rooms with beautiful features designed by an artist of Manrique’s caliber. I think the highlight of the house is how he’s connected it to several subterranean lava tubes and voids. It’s difficult to adequately show the house and spaces below but here are some attempts…

Outdoor pool area:

Subterranean lounging area (the palm tree is growing up through a hole in the roof):

And a view into one of the subterranean rooms from an opening in the floor in one of the rooms in the “normal” part of the house:

and one last room with his Woman With Her Shadow sculpture:

What made all the pieces come together for me were the various displays throughout the house that showed his painting, sculptural, and architectural work. His work is also on display all over the island in the form of his buildings, lots of signage he designed, and wind-activated sculptures that he designed and the community built. This photo shows three of the wind sculptures—the first being the obvious one front and center. The second is the white one in the background just to the right of the main one. The third one is just above and to the left of the left-most palm tree (it looks really small in this photo but is probably 20 feet tall). It’s hard to make out but is what I’d call a “wire-frame” design.

Once again, a very cool chance encounter with something I would have probably never come across any other way. Manrique and Lanzarote are an amazing pair. The scenery of the island and his creativity make it a picture-perfect paradise.

Thanks again to Bernar for being a great host and Gemma for being our part-time tour guide.

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