House’s Poetic Spaces According to Gastón Bachelard

Gastón Bachelard was one of those intellectuals who are impossible to classify.


Gastón Bachelard was one of those intellectuals who are impossible to classify. He was a philosopher, poet, epistemologist, physicist and French literary teacher, now if anything stood out above everything else was his poetic thought. In fact, one of his most memorable writings is The Poetics of Space, in which the sensitive analysis he makes of the spaces of the house is particularly striking.

There are very few great intellectuals who have given themselves to the task of delving into the spaces of the house. It seems to be a subject of architecture or sociology, but Bachelard turns it into a wonderful poetic reflection. He himself defines it as a topoanalysis, which, in any case, is endowed with an exquisite sensibility.

“Because the house is our corner of the world. It is our first universe. It is really a cosmos.”

-Gastón Bachelard-

When referring to the spaces of a house, the own Bachelard indicates: “it seems that the image of the house was the topography of our intimate being”. This is how he deals with it. The external space as a reflection of the internal world.

Spaces of a house, beloved spaces

Gastón Bachelard points out that the main value of a house is that of protection. The spaces of the house are lived spaces. Therefore, they have little to do with geometry or architecture. Each place and each object have memory and meaning, for the experiences they have witnessed. And the experiences of the home are the same of the intimate.

For this wonderful French philosopher, when learning to inhabit the house, we also learn to inhabit our interior. The spaces of the house are in us, just as we are in them. Compare the home with the images of a nest or a shell. By this he means that the house is, symbolically, the place where life is created and also where it takes refuge.

Likewise, it establishes an analogy between the house and the mother’s womb. In fact, it assumes the house as a symbolic extension of the mother. The house is like a mother that shelters us, protects us and contains us. It is also the scenario of dreams and dreams.

The royal house and the dream house

Bachelard points out that there is a home and a dream house. The natal house is the first. That where our first years passed. It stays etched forever in our spirit. All the other houses we inhabit will have some of that primitive abode. Not so much of its form, but of its atmosphere.

At the same time, we have always built a dream house. We also inhabit the spaces of the dream house. We design it, we locate it and we inhabit it, in moments of nonconformity. That dwelling does not have any of the defects of the royal house. It belongs to the dream world and remains in us as an ideal. He never gives up on her.

“Privacy needs a nest,” Bachelard tells us. It means that just as life requires a physical space from which to unfold, dreams also demand their own imaginary spaces, their chimeras, in order to fly.

The corners, the objects

Gastón Bachelard refers to the corners as the spaces of the house with the greatest significance. In one way or another, each person chooses a small space of their home to inhabit it to the fullest. It is almost always the room, but it could also be a remote room, a place in the garden, the study, etc. That is where we make the most presence. Such corners speak a lot about the way we relate to ourselves and to life.

Within the spaces of the house there is also a set of objects that turn out to be additional inhabitants of the place. Bachelard gives special meaning to cupboards, drawers and chests. Symbolically, they are the places of secrecy and hoarding. They are a metaphor of what is also carefully stored in some corner of our mind.

Opening a closet, a chest or a drawer always produces some degree of shuddering. Also, in some way, it is always a journey that goes from the external to the intimate. From “normal” to what has a connotation, sometimes, sacred. Because of what people keep there, a reading of their life can be done, especially if they have everything under lock and key. All the spaces of the house and all the objects that make it speak of its inhabitants.

What do your house and your things say about you?