Monday April 14, 2008
César's Army :: Working With Manrique
Whilst much has been written about Cesar Manrique's contribution to tourism on Lanzarote he was aided and supported by a number of less lauded but none the less hugely important collaborators.
Luis Ibañez was an architect as well as a close friend of Manrique's. He travelled round the island in his friends company in the late sixties and early seventies, helping to document the original features of many local buildings.
This was in preparation for the book that Manrique was writing about the Canarian style of architecture to be found on Lanzarote. Each small detail such as a chimney, doorway, bread oven, patio or aljibe (water deposit) was documented in photographs and line drawings. The book was published by the island Government in 1974 under the title Lanzarote's Unknown Architecture.
Together, Manrique and Ibañez also campaigned to persuade locals not to tear down interesting and old architectural features in order to replace them with new extensions or buildings of aluminium and glass. Which was no easy task, as the farm or house owner couldnt necessarily see the merits of their run down old barn and wished to provide themselves with more modern comforts. Nevertheless it is due in large part to these two men's efforts that the number of original buildings still standing on the island is as significant as it is today.
In addition it was with Luis Ibañez that in 1969 Manrique acquired the granary that became the restaurant La Era in Yaiza. It was one of only a handful of houses still standing in Yaiza after the devastating volcanic eruptions of 1730-36.
Its traditional style led Manrique to consider using it as an artists studio, but eventually on the advice of friends, the building was adapted to form the restaurant La Era.
Pepin Ramirez was President of the Cabildo during the period when the artist was at his most prolific. It was Pepin who was at his side when he discovered the five volcanic bubbles which were to become his home. And it was Pepin who contributed his support and thus that of the island government, gaining full approval for Manrique's development methodology for tourism on Lanzarote.
In fact, many of the legal constraints which still apply today - such as an absence of billboards and the restriction on building height - are the direct result of the collaboration of these two men.
Such was the strength of their friendship that it is Pepin's son José Juan Ramirez who is the President of the Fundacion and who was Manrique's sole heir.
And today Manriques wind toy Homage To Pepin Ramirez stands proudly at the entrance to Arrecife airport.
Eduardo Cáceres and Jesus Soto
Eduardo Cáceres and Jesus Soto aided Manrique in his development of the attraction at Timanfaya National Park.
Their vision was to create a comfortable visitor centre for sightseeing and a restaurant within the park to increase the number of tourists whilst also ensuring that the delicate ecology of the volcanic region remained undisturbed.
This has been successfully achieved, with the landscape untouched by human passage, as all the visitors are driven on coaches through a designated route that shows them the most interesting and beautiful aspects of the volcanoes.
Jesus Soto was the technical specialist who assisted with the construction of the restaurant complex in the park, in particular devising a building method to cope with the excessive temperatures just below the earths surface. By creating up to nine layers of basalt rock and cement, they produced a means of diverting the hot air into different zones of the Islote de Hilario, including the enormous oven over which food is cooked for El Diablo restaurant and flues where some of the fire demonstrations take place.