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The Poetics of Space (1957) - Gaston Bachelard

Related: Gaston Bachelard - 1957 - philosophy of place - French philosophy - prose poetry

The Poetics of Space (1957) - Gaston Bachelard
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Ars Memoriae: The Theatre (1619) - Robert Fludd

Bachelard reminds me of Robert Fludd, the Poetics of Space is the ars memoriae of Fludd in reverse.


This is a deep, magical, densely captivating book about space, our homes, how we live in them, and how dwellings and space affect us; it is as much a book of philosophy as a work of serious literature. It requires careful, preferably leisurely reading, with the possibility of moments to pause and digest and re-read the words. It will change the way you look at your home and your life, providing a deeper, more insightful relationship with the spaces you occupy. --Amazon.com

The Poetics of Space is a book by Gaston Bachelard published in 1958. Bachelard applies the method of Phenomenology to architecture basing his analysis not on purported origins (as was the trend in Enlightenment thinking about architecture) but on lived experience of architecture. He is thus led to consider spatial types such as the attic, the cellar, drawers and the like. This book implicitly urges architects to base their work on the experiences it will engender rather than on abstract rationales that may or may not affect viewers and users of architecture. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Poetics_of_Space [Jun 2006]


Here are the chapters of The Poetics of Space :

  1. The House. From Cellar to Garret. The Significance of the Hut.
  2. House and Universe.
  3. Drawers, Chests and Wardrobes
  4. Nests
  5. Shells
  6. Corners
  7. Miniatures
  8. Intimate Immensity
  9. The Dialectics of Outside and Inside
  10. The Phenomenology of Roundness

The oneiric house by Gaston Bachelard

Three or four decades ago a book entitled The Poetics of Space could hardly fail to stir the architectural imagination. First published in French in 1957 and translated into English in 1964, Gaston Bachelard’s philosophical meditation on oneiric space appeared at a moment when phenomenology and the pursuit of symbolic and archetypal meanings in architecture seemed to open fertile ground within the desiccated culture of late modernism. “We are far removed from any reference to simple geometrical forms,” Bachelard wrote in a chapter entitled “House and Universe.” “A house that has been experienced is not an inert box. Inhabited space transcends geometrical space.”(2) In lyrical chapters on the “topography of our intimate being”—of nests, drawers, shells, corners, miniatures, forests, and above all the house, with its vertical polarity of cellar and attic—he undertook a systematic study, or “topoanalysis,” of the “space we love.” Although Bachelard was specifically concerned with the psychodynamics of the literary image, architects saw in his excavation of the spatial imaginary a counter to both technoscientific positivism and abstract formalism, as well as an alternative to the schematicism of the other emerging intellectual tendency of the day, structuralism. In his book Existence, Space and Architecture (1971), Christian Norberg-Schulz, the most prolific and long-term proponent of a phenomenological architecture, asserted that “further research on architectural space is dependent upon a better understanding of existential space,” citing Bachelard’s Poetics of Space together with Otto Friedrich Bollnow’s Mensch und Raum (1963), the chapter on space in Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s The Phenomenology of Perception (1962; original French, 1945), and two key works by Martin Heidegger, Being and Time (1962; German, 1927) and the essay “Building Dwelling Thinking” (1971; German, 1954), as fundamental texts. --Joan Ockman reviews The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard via http://www.gsd.harvard.edu/research/publications/hdm/back/6books_ockman.html [Feb 2005]

The 'oneiric house' [dream house] described by Gaston Bachelard has three or four floors; the middle ones are the stages of everyday life, the attic is the storage place of pleasant memories, whereas the basement is the place for negative remembrances, pushed outside consciousness. In the final sequences of Psycho the different floors of the Bates House obtain their meaning in accordance with Bachelard's oneiric house. Beginning her survey of the enigma of the house in the attic, Lila is forced to a panicked escape down into the basement where she finds the terrifying mummified wigged corpse of Norman's mother. -- Juhani Pallasmaa, Lived Space in Architecture and Cinema, http://www.ucalgary.ca/UofC/faculties/EV/designresearch/publications/insitu/copy/volume2/imprintable_architecture/Juhani_Pallasmaa/ [Feb 2005]

Furthermore, we could take the influence of cinema on today's architecture as our subject of study. Vincent Korda's visions of multi-storey atria in Things to Come, for instance, have fully materialized, five decades later, in John Portman's gigantic hotel projects. Portman's projects are an example of an architecture which cold-bloodedly serves the economic interests of the developer, utilizing means of persuasion deriving from stage sets designed for cinematic spectacles. -- Juhani Pallasmaa, Lived Space in Architecture and Cinema, http://www.ucalgary.ca/UofC/faculties/EV/designresearch/publications/insitu/copy/volume2/imprintable_architecture/Juhani_Pallasmaa/ [Feb 2005]

Comments by hermitary.com

And some comments by hermitary.com

Understanding the psychology of the hut as dwelling and daydream is the strength of Gaston Bachelard's book, although that is only one chapter. The whole book is a somewhat abstract exercise in the phenomenology of the dwelling. It suggests why we seek the hut as psychological necessity. At the same time, Bachelard provides a dizzying presentation of almost surreal perspectives on models of dwellings, or enclosures of space, as the contents show:

Bachelard's premise is that the house is defined by the imagination. It is not mere shelter but a refuge from society.

[...] Bachelard uses the physical characteristics of the house in his phenomenological "topoanalysis" to show the house as metaphor for the self, with its "nooks and corners of solitude." Verticality reflects levels of self-consciousness from dark subconscious cellar to light-infused but ignored attic, to the weather-meeting, acclimatizing roof. --http://www.hermitary.com/bookreviews/hermithut.html [Jul 2006]

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