191 of 193 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 1997
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
The Poetics of Space is one of the most inspiring books I have ever read. It is to be taken slowly - the author's primary idea is that people crave spaces that inspire them to daydream. The style of the book is one that inspires daydreams itself; you will suddenly find that you have placed the book in your lap and you were off daydreaming! Poetics of Space is a methodical, carefully argued book which tells us that we read spaces like we read a book. There is a distinct psychology to each type of space - attics, cellars, the forest, and nests are just some of the spaces examined. The author was chair of the Philosophy department at the Sorbonne. For most of his life, he examined the philosophy of science, but in his later years he turned to artistic reverie as his main subject. The book is written with thought, love, and passion and is a tour-de-force. Highly recommended to those who enjoy poetry, philosophy, architecture or art.
95 of 99 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2003
Though you may not immediately think that there is a connection between language and the places where you live and pass through, your sense of your surroundings and of language itself will be transformed after you read Gaston Bachelard's "The Poetics of Space." Bachelard argues that language--especially poetry--can reveal hidden aspects of our experience of space, especially of our home space. For example, he considers how common phrases such as "go up to the attic" and "go down to the basement" are revelatory of our typical sense that stairs to an attic are stairs one ascends, while stairs to the basement are stairs one descends--in spite of the fact that both sets of stairs must be equally ascended and descended. As he does with other such observations, Bachelard extends his observation regarding the directionality of different staircases into a discussion of how the attic and basement hold different roles in our daily and imaginary lives. In addition to exploring how we experience space and place, Bachelard equally attends to the way in which language can function either as a daily and common means of communication or as a site of new and creative insight; roughly speaking, he argues that poetry happens when the motions of language itself open us up to a new way of seeing or understanding something. By reading this beautifully written and engaging book, you will likely come to understand or see anew experiences from childhood through adulthood that pertain to places where your have lived, grown up, felt comfortable or alienated, had a feeling of wonder or fear, etc. I recommend this book to anyone interested in the experience of place or space, in language and what it can reveal to us, or in what counts as poetry rather than as common everyday language.
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2001
How do we associate emotional relationship to intimate spaces? This is the basic premise of this book. Gaston Bachelard unleashes our imaginations as he helps us to explore these feelings with an journey through our house - a sacred place that holds dear to most of us, a place that we grew up, a place that is full of memories both from our childhood and our present existence.
From the cellar to the attic, Bachelard also shows that these fantasies are not only common to all of us, but also can be viewed in a greater context and reflected in literary works, poetries, philosophies, etc. Also, these kinds of primal response also can be reflected in our relationship with natural spatial objects like nests and shells. It also deals with the metaphysical question of outside and inside.
This is a book that is full of philosophical treasures and wonders!
46 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2000
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Bachelard's classic is a beautiful contribution to phenomenology. It does not so much "talk" about space and place, but rather gives the reader a thoughtful experience of the subjectivities and meanings of space. For example, Bachelard presents poetic interpretations of enclosures, inside/outside, and other spatial phenomemon while applying it to such entities as the nest, the shell, the corner, the drawer, etc. A work to savor, slowly.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2005
I read this book in grad school and it completely changed the way I look at Home and the build environment. It brought back many memories of the all the places I lived when I was a kid and then as an adult and made me re-examine, not just the building but the town where I live. Beautifully written, it brings images to your mind. It also inspired my thesis project and the photographs I have been working on for the last few years. I've read it and re-read it, its just made me think about my home so much.
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2005
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Phenomenology is the school of philosophy that claims to begin its analysis of existence with a careful study of human experience. Its founder, Edmund Husserl, and its most famous exponent, Martin Heidegger, laid its groundwork with studies of the epistemological foundations of science and the nature of Being. Bachelard apples their methods 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 such emotionally charged spatial types as the attic, the cellar, drawers and the like. In its emphasis on actual experience, it is refreshingly real, in contrast to much recent architectural theory that treats architecture as "text". The proof of the phenomenological pudding is always in the reader's response to the experiences being described. Bachelard is an exceptionally acute writer of such descriptions. 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.
112 of 138 people found the following review helpful
on June 19, 2001
I came across mention of this book in Alexander Cockburn's otherwise excellent list of the century's greatest works of non-fiction in translation. Alex, you gave me a bum steer! The jacket of this book and the reviews already posted here at Amazon led me to believe that it would contain some insight into the how people experience places. The introduction promises an exploration of "the impact of human habitation on geometrical form and the impact of form upon human inhabitants." It further offers "methods of assaying existing form [and] imaging finer textures and concatenations." If this is what you are looking for (and aren't we all?) I strongly suggest you take a look at Christopher Alexander's seminal "A Pattern Language". APL is everything TPOS is not: a systematic, well researched, clearly and succinctly written, common-sense attempt to synthesize and analyze the best (and worst) practices in planning and architecture from around the globe. A Pattern Language is a deeply affecting analysis of the impact of the physical form on the quality of our families and communities. The Poetics of Space is a vague, discursive, and frustrating piece of literary criticism that strays far afield from questions of space. Bachelard uses bits of trite ecstatic poetry ("My love enveloped the universe") as springboards for a series of swan dives into a frustrating critical sludge of dreary pseudo-revelation("we only have to imagine it for our souls to be at peace"), paradox("a phenomenology without phemomena"), and contrarian inanity("why should the actions of the imagination not be as real as those of perception?" "the problem is not to examine men, but images."; "beware of the privileges of evidence"). To be fair, the book does contain few isolated bits of evocative imprecision, and his real-world examples can be genuinely resonant. (I particularly liked the bit about bird's nests.)
On balance, though, Bachelard gives turbid french criticism a bad name.
30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2002
This is a must-read for ANYONE interested in the arts, architecture, home buying, renovation, interior designing. Along with his in-depth exploration of how spaces work within our minds, he leads to beautiful poetic passages that will leave you breathless no matter how well read you are. After reading this book you will no longer think of the world around you as a vacuum to be rushed through. Everywhere has meaning.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 1999
I was asked to read this book before going to university and therefore saw reading it as more of an obstacle to be overcome than an experience to be enjoyed. The book is exquisite, a true pleasure to read and will tell you more about the spaces you live in, and with, then you realised you already knew.
38 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2003
When I read I dogear pages with especially interesting quotes on them, & in this book I dogeared almost every page...& on each page I can't tell now what quote I was dogearing for, because everything he says is so amazing. This book is so beautiful with its ingenius motion through psychology, architecture, poetry, & on & on. Of all the books in my personal library, this is one of the very most highly recommended from me to any reader. I am sure that no one was mistaken in hailing Bachelard as one of the 20th century's greatest philosophers.