He was born in Arrecife, Lanzarote and fought in the Spanish Civil War as a volunteer in the artillery unit on Franco's side. He attended the University of La Laguna to study architecture, but after two years he quit his studies. He moved to Madrid in 1945 and received a scholarship for the Art School of San Fernando, where he graduated as a teacher of art and painting. Between 1964 and 1966 he lived in New York City, where a grant from Nelson Rockefeller allowed him to rent his own studio, where he painted many of his works.
Manrique had a major influence on the planning regulations in Lanzarote, when he recognised its tourist potential and lobbied successfully to encourage sympathetic development of tourism. One aspect of this is the lack of high rise hotels on the island. Those that are there are in keeping with the use of traditional colours in their exterior decoration. His work as an ecologist was ultimately rewarded in 1993, when Lanzarote became the first island in the world to be designated a UNESCO biosphere.
He died in a car accident at Tahíche, Teguise, very near the Fundación, his Lanzarote home, in 1992. He was aged 73.
There is evidence of Manrique's work all over the island, but I concentrated on his home, which is now home to the César Manrique Foundation, the Cactus Garden (Jardín de Cactus) and the Jameos Del Agua.
Manrique's home itself is built within a 3,000 sq. metre lot, on the site of the Lanzarote eruptions in the 18th century, and was created upon Manrique's return from New York City in 1966. The rooms on the first floor, including the artist studios, were created with the intention of keeping with Lanzarote traditions, yet making them more modern with open spaces and large windows. The "ground floor", more appropriately titled the "basement", contains five areas situated within volcanic bubbles, the rooms bored into volcanic basalt. There is a central cave which houses a recreational area, including a swimming pool, a barbecue and a small dance floor. The images above show two of the basement rooms. The first one is, unsurprisingly, the White Room, with a concrete sofa with white vinyl cushions and a marble coffee table.
The second image is of the Red Room and features a centre-piece of a dead fig tree.
On leaving the basement you enter a formal garden containing a large mural on the wall, created out of broken tiles and depicting several bulls. The planting of this garden is sensitive to the mural – bright coloured flowers mimic the bright colours of the broken tiles.
Moving on from his home, we go to the Cactus Garden he designed.
A giant, eight metre high, green, metallic sculpture of a cacti, stands over the car park and main entrance to the Cactus Garden (Jardín de Cactus).
The Cactus Garden contains over 10,000 different plants as well as a windmill.
A close up of one of the many cactus.
Finally we take a look at the Jameos Del Agua.
The underground salt water Lagoon, Jameo Chico, is host to a Species of Blind Albino Crab that is found nowhere else. It is part of Jameos Del Agua, in the north of Lanzarote, which César Manrique helped to create during the 1960's, where these natural 'jameos' have been turned into an Auditorium, Swimming pool, Gardens and Restaurants.
The auditorium in the Jameos Del Agua.
If you go on holiday to Lanzarote, it is well worth leaving the beach or the hotel pool for a day to visit these sights and more. For more in depth information on Cesar Manrique and on what else there is to see and do on the island, go to the Lanzarote Guidebook website.