César Manrique was an artist and architect. He was born in Lanzarote in 1919, and after the Spanish Civil War and Second World War trained as an artist. In the early 1960s he lived in New York, successfully establishing his reputation. He returned to Lanzarote in 1966, and on his death there in 1992 he left an extraordinary legacy in the fields of art, architecture, economic development and infrastructure, heritage – and tourism. A one-man tour-de-force!
He had two homes in Lanzarote. On Friday Becky and I visited his second home, a little south-west of Haria. It’s a museum dedicated to both the life and work of César Manrique himself, and the heritage and culture of Lanzarote. It was really interesting as a museum, but as a house … it really was the nicest house I’ve ever been in. Courtyards, beautiful pottery, a magnificent basalt fireplace, huge displays of ferns indoors both at ground level and hanging from above, tasteful design of bathrooms, loads of mirrors, lamps, paintings, a swimming pool and, of course, his huge workshop. Both B and I want to move in there! To be honest, we’d be content with just the workshop!
Today, Monday, we visited César Manrique‘s other house at Tahiche – his first house in Lanzarote, built in 1966 when he returned to his native island. There’s no access to the house itself, but there is here a gallery with works by Manrique and others – including Picasso. The landscaped gardens are an extraordinary composition of interesting spaces, lush planting, and water features – all blended beautifully with the natural landscape.
This became the headquarters of the Fundacion César Manrique and was founded by Manrique himself and like-minded artists who wanted to create and conserve architectural compositions in harmony with nature. Gallery with paintings including a couple of Picassos. No access to living quarters, but still interesting spaces with lush planting and water features blending in with the landscape.
At Nazaret we visited another extraordinary house, built on numerous levels and carved into the lava flow, with stairs, pools and even a bed cut out of the lava. This house owes much to the ideas of César Manrique, and was built for that icon of 1960s-1970s films, Omar Sharif as a holiday home: he never actually lived here, as he gambled it away in a game of Bridge (he was an inveterate gambler – ultimately his undoing). A house of legends!
Omar Sharif’s card table
Looking at the photos I’ve taken of these visits (far more than you see here!), Becky looks quite blown away by the creativity of these houses.
Incidentally, most of the tourist attractions we’ve visited were designed by César Manrique: Mirador del Rio ; the Jardin de Cactus , Jameos del Agua …