MELIA SALINAS – A luxury hotel? A living museum? Or maybe both.

When I booked 8 days stay at Melia Salinas, after checking everything possible on-line, from reviews to stories in magazine and newspapers I did expect a safe and luxury escape away from the pandemic daily grim. And indeed, if you’re planning to visit Lanzarote in style then Melia Salinas is likely to feature at the top of your list.

What I didn’t know at the moment of booking is that the hotel dominating Costa Teguise will offer me more than a stylish holiday I was hovering on the brink of a unique cultural experience.

What I didn’t know at the moment of booking is that the hotel dominating Costa Teguise will offer me more than a stylish holiday I was hovering on the brink of a unique cultural experience.

Meliá Salinas is the jewel that every crown would like to have. Designed since its inception by the great architect Fernando Higueras with the collaboration of the world-renowned César Manrique, the hotel was classified as a Site of Cultural Interest and is currently historical heritage, housing different works by Canarian artists that the guest can discover and enjoy.

The hotel exudes magic and the array of luxury facilities for sure will kidnap every guest’s attention. But maybe after a day or two, when the pampering and comfort will be started to be a daily routine you will find some time to discover the story behind this magnificent building. Classic and elegant, yet modern and functional, this complex is a true reflection of the stories that comprise it. And I was lucky enough to have two excellent guides ERNESTO GUERRA, General manager and JISKE JAGER, Assistant General Manager, both in love with their “little office”.

But let’s start with a little bit of history.

Lanzarote was the first island in the Canary Islands archipelago to be explored by European seafarers, probably because it is the northernmost of the islands and the closest to the continent. Between 1320 and 1339, the Italian seafarer Lancelotto Malocello arrived at Lanzarote and gave it his name. In 1402, the Frenchman Jean de Béthencourt arrived and defeated Guadarfía, the Guanche king, or Mencey, of the island. And so Lanzarote became the first annexed island of the Kingdom of Castile, coming under its rule and vassalage.

Teguise is one of the seven municipalities Lanzarote island is divided into nowadays, and it is without a doubt the one that enjoys the richest history and traditions. The place received the name of Teguise in honour of Princess Teguise, King Guadarfía’s daughter and married to Maciot de Béthencourt’s, Jean de Béthencourt’s nephew.

The island born artist and architect César Manrique had returned from New York in the late 1960´s just as package tourism was starting to take off in Spain. He was deeply concerned that Lanzarote could face a concrete burial like the high-rise development starting to engulf the Costas and other Canary Islands.

“I believe that we are witnessing an historic moment where the huge danger to the environment is so evident that we must conceive a new responsibility with respect to the future”. (César Manrique)

As a result. Manrique urged restraint and sought to influence development on the island as much as possible by using his contacts in the island government, which was under the aegis of an old family friend called Pepin Ramirez. Manrique envisioned creating a low-rise luxury resort in a previously deserted spot that was christened Costa Teguise – named as the seaside sister to the ancient island capital of Teguise some ten minutes up the road.

The Gran Melia Salinas was to be the first incarnation of this plan and the first building in the resort. Creating, in collaboration with Madrid based architect Fernando Higueras in 1976, it was hoped, a stylish example for future development.

Fernando de Higueras Díaz was one of the most famous architects in the world during the 1970s, his work being recognized worldwide as an original and interesting union of constructivist, rationalist and organic architecture

One day in 1959 or 1960, the 29-year-old Fernando Higueras was queueing in Casa Macarrón, an artists’ supplies shop in Madrid, when he recognised another face in the queue. That face belonged to César Manrique, eleven years older than him and a well-known face in Madrid’s art scene. The two got chatting, and the resulting friendship led to some of Lanzarote’s most inspiring architectural projects.

Higueras did take charge of some major projects Lanzarote – chief among them being the island’s first five-star hotel, the Meliá Salinas in Costa Teguise. He would fly over every fifteen days to check how work on the hotel was progressing, and each time he would be met at the airport by César Manrique, and would stay as a guest at his home in Tahiche

The Meliá Salinas is almost certainly the most impressive of all the pleasure palaces built in the 70s and 80s on Lanzarote, won the international Prize for Architecture in 1979.

Built by Higueras according to the brutalist current of the time, it is a poem in concrete – a spectacularly modern building that also hints at the ancient terraces of the island’s farmers. The majestic building conceived in concrete seen, due to the particularity of this material, the actions in the lining of the building both inside and outside were executed in an almost handmade way. Today it will be impossible to build such a complex because of its costs.

Melia Salinas’ idiosyncratic, not to say eccentric, personality is a reminder of Manrique’s early insistence that new building on the island should be discreet, respectful and low-rise.

The hotel was laid out around well-like patios filled with an artificial jungle of stately palms, ferns and succulents, white-painted pathways meandering among streams and lumps of black volcanic rock — typical expressions of Manrique’s art-in-nature philosophy. But its the botanical centrepiece of the Gran Melia that is arguably its most impressive feature. “You created order, I will give you chaos” Marique replayed to Higueras when he started to design the gardens.  As here Manrique designed a lush and breath-taking indoor botanical garden that serves both as homage to the traditional Canarian patio found in many older island homes – and a much-copied talking point that has been replicated in other hotels around the world.

And a quick suggestion for you. When you have time, one day just go back to the reception and re-enact you arrival: go out of the hotel, enter the revolving door and instead of searching for the check-in desk (as for sure you did at your arrival) look straight ahead. The view is mesmerizing: from the elegant lobby your eyes are guided by the luxurious gardens to meet the Ocean. What a feeling!!!!! I was not at all surprise to find out that these gardens are JISKE JAGER’s (Assistant General Manager) the favourite spot.

My favourite spot at Melia Salinas: JISKE JAGER, Assistant General Manager

Cesar Manrique’s artistic style is best observed in the very spacious swimming pool-lake area. The exquisite balance between light and shadow, the playful shapes of the palm trees, the use of natural stone for the floors, and the clever incorporation of traditional Canary Island architectural elements all nourish the singular aesthetic of this stunning space. This rustic beauty, particularly in the stone floors, for example, may seem somewhat at odds with the resulting comfort of the area.

Central Pool at Melia Salinas

And if the pool or the gardens didn’t satisfied you hunger for majestic architecture take one of the lifts to the last floor, walk along the corridor and exit the hotel using the impressive staircase, another architectural gem of Melia Salinas, descending from the heights of this concrete elegance to a wide terrace ready to embrace the Ocean. For sure you will feel like a “rock star” as the General Manager ERNESTO GUERRA described his favourite spot of the hotel.

ERNESTO GUERRA’s favourite spot at Melia Salinas

Melia Salinas bears many of Manrique´s original works of art and murals, which sit alongside works from other leading Canarian artists such as Pepe Damaso and Paco Curbelo. Two of Manrique’s rather murky abstract paintings hung behind the reception desk. What impressed me more were his original wall-pieces in the lobby and cocktail lounge — parades of stylised creatures carved into long panels of island stone.

Another element to highlight, and one of the keynotes of Manrique’s public art, is the way that this architect has capitalized on the strategic location of the Gran Meliá Salinas, directly on the beach, to spread out the spaces for relaxation and quiet contemplation around the swimming pool. The calm atmosphere is a solid feature of this luxurious resort, infused with the sounds of the waves lapping the shores of Los Charcos beach and the enveloping rhythm of the water as it falls on the natural stone of the waterfalls.

This emblematic establishment is increasingly becoming a mandatory stop for many visitors to the island of Lanzarote, who, in the same way that they visit the tourist centres designed by Manrique and the Timanfaya National Park, stop at the Hotel Meliá Salinas, a work of art and a perfect example of a manual for architects and engineering schools around the world.

A hotel with history – MELIA SALINAS

Now, do you still wonder WHY I fall in love with Melia Salinas?

~ by leonard69 on October 3, 2020.

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