Space, Form and Light: Vernacular architecture on Lanzarote


The space that determines the setting for the selection of images displayed here is the 700 km² making up the island of Lanzarote off the northwest coast of Africa. A hundred volcanoes have left their mark on the landscape with their deep red cones, and the expanses of grey lava and black volcanic ashes, known as picón. A sky of deep blue looms overhead.

Behind this backdrop the agricultural buildings and villages form a stark contrast. Nested within and next to each other the cuboids, furnished with flat, smooth and untiled gabled roofs constitute the backbone to the local vernacular architecture. The walls are made of volcanic rock set in mortar, often left with unpolished plaster (a cuchara) and covered with coats of bright white lime paint. Windows and doors are few an far between, giving the buildings the air of fortresses, defending its inhabitants against potential conquerers, the fierce northwesterly winds and the intensive radiation of the sunlight.

The black volcanic ashes find their optical extension in the pitch-black roads and streets zigzagging the island. Their white traffic markings stand out bold and clear.

The atmosphere in the villages can often feel depressing, sometimes bordering on the absurd. The deserted streets feel empty in the glaring sunlight. Pedestrian crossings run straight into massive walls. Cars lurk out from parking bays and side streets as if they were ready to pounce on passers-by. Suddenly groups of youths on bikes appear out of nowhere and disappear as if by magic just as quickly as they have come in a cloud of noise and laughter behind the facade of a building or down an alleyway. High Noon.

Over all of this the high sun tracks its path across the clear sky, bathing the buildings in haze of intense light. The sun seems to play a game with the forms and lines by making the structures visible and accentuating edges and shapes. The resulting drop shadows glide smoothly and unstoppably over cubes and triangular prisms. Everything that was seemingly static is put into constant motion, resulting in an endless spectacle that never ceases to amaze.