By Bella Gladman
I’ve spent the past two years retraining as a software engineer, dedicating my evenings to studying rather than socialising. The decision to sacrifice fun for a shot at career stability has paid off but it has also left me in dire need of connection to the real world rather than the internet. It is for this reason that it’s imperative I move to the home of artist and sculptor César Manrique on Lanzarote.
From the outside, Manrique’s house, Taro de Tahíche, appears to be a simple, single-storey whitewashed building that looks out over the island’s harsh lunar lava fields. Inside, however, steps lead down from the gleaming courtyard and galleries to a subterranean paradise that formed 15 million years ago, when five interconnecting lava bubbles cooled into caverns.
The bare rock that forms the house’s ceiling blocks the sun’s heat but not its light, which pours in through holes in the roof. In the living room, a palm tree grows up from the middle of the floor to the world above. The floors have been smoothed and painted white, encouraging you to flow easily from room to room, before eventually you arrive at an open-air turquoise pool shaded by bougainvillea. White banquette seating follows the curves of the walls. It would be the most glorious place to have a party. I normally only listen to ambient music (for concentration purposes), but this house makes me want to dance to 60s bossa nova (technically Brazilian rather than Lanzarotean, but this is a fantasy). Call me a cavewoman if you want, but to me, this troglodytic way of life is incredibly chic.
I haven’t made time for relaxing lately. From my desk in south London, the thought of lounging by the pool in an Eero Aarnio “Ball” chair feels unimaginably decadent — it always seems as if there is more work I could be doing. Yet living in a volcanic cave would remind me that the natural world has been around a lot longer than computers and email — a little perspective for when my inner taskmaster cracks the whip.
There are deeper lessons to take from this house than just “close your laptop and hang out with your friends”. Taro de Tahíche was part of a suite of developments across Lanzarote, in which Manrique turned natural lava formations into stunning architectural formations. His core principle was to work with — not against — the natural landscape of his beloved island, showcasing its idiosyncrasies rather than effacing them.
Manrique’s work combines the optimism of creating something new with a deep respect for what’s already there. In the same way that you can lie back on the perfect white seating and watch the passing clouds through the natural oculus of Taro de Tahíche’s lava ceiling, life is about finding a balance between those things you can control and those you can’t.
I’m learning that fun and work aren’t either/or. After all, you can’t remove all distractions and neither should you want to. Taro de Tahíche is my fantasy home because it embodies my fantasy way of life. “Ease comes not from domination but from acceptance,” I think, as I switch off my monitor and step outside to meet my friends.
Photography: César Manrique Foundation