Jameos del Agua
Los Jameos del Agua, like La Cueva de los Verdes, are located inside the volcanic tunnel created by the eruption of La Corona Volcano. Los Jameos del Agua are located in the section of the tunnel that is closest to the shore. They owe their name to the existence of an internal lake which constitutes a unique geological formation. It originates from filtration through the rock which lays below sea-level.
The tunnel formed by the eruption of La Corona Volcano is one of the longest in the world, at 6 kilometres in length. The partial collapse of the tunnel roof forms a structure known in the island's Aboriginal tongue as "Jameo", which is an opening in the ground which gives access to the various grottoes. Over six kilometres have been explored; these run from the crater of the volcano until it enters the sea, where its runs in an underwater stretch of 1.5 kilometres known as the "Túnel de la Atlántida" (the Tunnel of Atlantis).
It is formed by at least three "jameos" or openings in the ground: the "Jameo Chico", which gives access to the interior; the "Jameo Grande"; and a third, known as the "Jameo Redondo".
Owing to the uniqueness of their structure, two environmental protection measures have been put in place for the Jameos del Agua. On the one hand, they are located within the Monumento Natural del Malpaís de la Corona and, on the other hand, they have been declared a Site of Scientific Interest. In addition to those measures, the site has also been declared as being a Site of Cultural Interest - in the category of Historical Gardens ? which, like other spatial works created by César Manrique in Lanzarote, is due to its significant value as a heritage site.
The birth of an idea
The Jameos del Agua was the Centre of Art, Culture and Tourism to be created by César Manrique and reflects one of the cornerstones of his creative work: harmony between nature and artistic creation.
- Los Jameos del Agua, as a creative work, are attributable to César Manrique. However, the complexity of the project and Manrique's repeated sojourns in New York during the first few years of the Centre's creation were such that, especially in the initial stages of preparing the volcanic "tube", Manrique delegated part of the work to one of his closest collaborators:: the artist Jesús Soto, who designed the spectacular illumination and refitting of La Cueva de los Verdes.
In the early Sixties, and owing to the abandonment of the surrounding area, it was necessary to carry out works to clean and refit the Jameos. Although the works took a great deal of time to complete, 1966 can be names as the date on which the initial phases were opened to the public.
The particular morphology of the volcanic tube led to various changes being made to the initial project, exploring new creative alternatives and ensuring that the solutions adopted were the most appropriate.
- It was only in 1977, after over a decade of works, that the general structure of the Jameos del Agua was ready. In the same year, the Centre - including the Auditorium - was officially open and the works deemed to be finalised.
Even now, new installations are being set up for concrete functions, such as the museum of the "Casa de los Volcanes" (one of the most import scientific research centres in the world). The centre has been performing conducting important scientific and educational work in the field of vulcanology.
On the outside of the Jameos, we find a small reception area surrounded by stone walls, white partitions and the remains of the ribs of a boat. After passing through a small entrance, we descend an ingenious spiral staircase made of volcanic rock and wood, which allows us to discover, little by little from the top, the first interior scenario: the "Jameo Chico". In this space, we notice the abundant vegetation and ornamental elements that fill the structure of the Jameo with visual stimuli.
- The "Jameo Chico" forms part of the initial phase of the renovation of the Jameos del Agua, which the Cabildo de Lanzarote undertook from 1966 onwards. The main focus of the project was to intervene in, renovate and put to use those spaces that were most emblematic of the island's geography. Los Jameos del Agua were originally designed to be a concert hall: we can see the bar, doors and the marble dance-floor, which date back to that time.
Within the enclave, we discover a natural lake of extraordinarily clear waters. This area - which has hardly bee touched - retains its barrel vault shape characteristic of volcanic tunnels. Its cathedralesque character is bolstered by the presence of an opening in the upper part of the vault from where, on sunny days, a shaft of zenithal light shines and dives into the depths of the lake.
This underground aquatic habitat, with its rich fauna, is home to over a dozen endemic species that are of great scientific interest, including the famous blind albino crabs (Munidopsis polymorpha) that dot the rocky floor of the lake. The darkness within the grotto causes the lack of pigmentation. This rare specimen - unique in the world - whitish in colour and barely one centimetre long, serves as a symbol of the Jameos del Agua.
Blending into the surrounding landscape, we come to a footbridge which allows visitors to cross the lake sideways and, after ascending through a landscaped wall, arrive at the "Jameo Grande".
The ingenious handling of this area differs from the rest of the tour. We find ourselves before an exuberant, exotic garden where a surprising vegetation blossoms, made up of palms, cactus, crotos and fig trees, which surround a white pool with serpentine shapes and waters of an intense, watercolour blue. The curved walls of the jameo itself crown the whole. The enamelled, strident white of the pool contrasts with the dark, rough stone, transforming it into a veritable humanised oasis.
The shapes created by César Manrique are serpentine, the curve of which acquires a strong organic quality and blends into the surrounding elements. Especially striking is the hundred year-old palm tree that intentionally looms over the pool, casting it in light and shade.
If we continue past the "Jameo Grande", we come to yet another unique intervention: a spectacular Auditorium that makes wonderful use of the interior of a volcanic grotto. The auditorium makes for an architectonic epilogue to the tour.
Without doubt, the Jameos del Agua are one of César Manrique's most original works, in which his personal, unconventional conception of artistic creation is given concrete expression in the most masterful of ways.