El mirador del Río
El Mirador del Río is situated high up on the Risco de Famara, at an altitude of 475 metres, in the most northerly area of the island. From there, we can see one of Lanzarote's most spectacular panoramas. This is one of the architectonic creations most representative of César Manrique, where his enthusiastic project integrating art and nature is given concrete expression in the succession of artistic and architectonic details.
El Risco de Famara is an extensive cliff which runs lengthways for 22 kilometres from Punta Fariones, in the extreme north of the island, to El Morro del Hueso, in the vicinity of Teguise. Along its orography, it reaches its highest point - which is also the highest point on the island - at Las Peñas del Chache, an altitude of 671 metres. The vertical line of the Risco runs almost parallel to the coastline of La Graciosa, the two being separated by a narrow stretch of water known as the Río. Being of great interest in environmental terms, the Risco de Famara, La Graciosa and the neighbouring islets ? including the sea bed ? form a whole which has been declared the Chinijo Archipelago Nature Reserve.
It is located between two geological features that are of particular significance: on the one hand, the impressive Risco de Famara and, on the other hand, La Corona Volcano, from which run the arms of the large, semi-circular plaza leading to the building.
There is a project, predating the Mirador del Río, by the celebrated architect Fernando Higueras, who was a personal friend of César Manrique. This chimerical project bore the suggestive name of "Ciudad de las Gaviotas".
This significant building is barely noticeable from the outside because, in a subtle camouflaging manoeuvre, the structure is hidden beneath a heavy layer of rock which mimics the surrounding landscape.
Located on the outside of the edifice, there is a figurative sculpture made of wrought iron. It represents a fish and a bird. This is a metaphor of the two natural elements that are especially present in this particular landscape: water and air.
Inside, we pass along a snaking corridor in which there are niches decorated with traditional ceramics made by the Lanzaroteño craftsman Juan Brito. After crossing this attractive entrance, we come to two large vaulted spaces, in which there are two wide glass windows ? the "eyes" of the Mirador- which allow visitors to see the extraordinary view from a very special position.
The two windows, concave horizontally and slightly oblique vertically, increase the effect of the panoramic view, allowing the enclave to be filled with light and linking the interior and exterior space, giving precedence to nature.
In this very space, we come to two original monumental sculptures made of iron rods and plates. These sculptures, suspended from the ceiling, fill the vaulted space and perform the task of reducing noise, thus preventing reverberations.
From the area fitted out as a cafe, we can access the upper level by a helicoidal staircase made highly dynamic by the use of curving lines. As with the rest of the building, it presents the monochrome of the colour of the wood and the white of the masonry.
On the first floor, we find a shop selling souvenirs of what is no doubt a unique stay. In the same space, we find a small room in which there is a small window in the shape of an eye, through which we can see La Corona Volcano at the bottom. Continuing up the stairs, we reach the outdoor terraces on the flat roof, through a sky-light located in the apex of the building.
From the vaulted main room (described above), we can also access an outdoor balcony which looks out over the abyss.
- Attention should be given to the handrail running along the perimeter, made of iron and wood, which makes the facade resemble the prow of a boat. Symbolically, the island would be transformed into a ship sailing northwards on the waters of the Atlantic.
On clear, cloudless days, we can contemplate the resplendent views of the Chinijo Archipelago Nature Reserve.
This is divided, first of all, into the island of La Graciosa, behind which there are Montaña Clara and the Roque del Oeste and, finally, Alegranza and the Roque del Este. The bottom of the Risco de Famara can be seen from the Mirador and, noticeable in their shades of red, the island?s oldest salt-mines, the Salinas del Río.
The technical execution of the works was overseen by the architect Eduardo Cáceres and the artist Jesús Soto. The works were completed in 1973, when the building was opened.
The strategic position of the enclave which, like a watchtower, affords a privileged view over a broad section of the northern end of the island, was used in a military context at the end of the 19th century: a defensive coastal battery was constructed during the Spanish-American War. This area of the Risco de Famara has always been popularly known as "La batería del Río".
The execution of the building entailed a real display of technical planning, given that the area had to be excavated before subsequently erecting the building and covering it in volcanic rock.
The landscape and environmental aspects of the location, as well as the particularity of its use, served in tackling the works in an experimental way, in both the functional aspects and the aesthetic and construction solutions.