Pablo Neruda was a man of many faces, excessive and epicurean. He combined these attributes in the field of diplomacy as well as in that of poetry and his life took him to the four corners of the world while remaining incredibly anchored in his native Chile.
He was a consul and a political activist up to the point of losing his life, but it is certainly the poet who remains the most fascinating today.
A child who does not play is not a child, but the man who doesn’t play has lost forever the child who lived in him and who he will miss terribly.Pablo Neruda
It can be said that Pablo Neruda’s poetry overflowed from his literary works like a magical fluid, to infiltrate the smallest interstices of everyday life, and it is in his architectural work that he accomplished this incredible subterfuge.
Putting on a second skin, the poet metamorphosed into a builder and managed the feat of designing and inhabiting almost simultaneously three houses in three different places in Chile, each with a particular mission. He designed rooms and collected objects in order to tell his stories without words.
The most incredible thing one experiences when visiting these three houses is that they all completely disregard the rules of architecture. They do not seem to have had any preconceived plan. Difficult to apprehend with a simple glance, complicated to understand, confusing in their wandering, they are as much idiomatic as bewitching.
As soon as you cross their doorsteps, you feel like you are in another dimension, carried by the pure poetry that emanates from every corner. Pablo Neruda wrote his houses more than he built them. La Chascona in Santiago de Chile was intended to house his secret love, the woman of his life, in the heart of the city facing the Andes Mountains.
“Of all the stars I admired, drenched
in various rivers and mists,
I chose only the one I love,
Since then I sleep with the night”
100 love sonnets – Pablo Neruda
La Sebastiana in Valparaíso was imagined as a drunken boat stranded on the slopes of this bohemian and mysterious city facing a mythical port.
As for Isla Negra, which is named after the small town where it is located, it was the poet’s final anchorage, at the foot of which the immense waves of the Pacific Ocean break.
Beyond the architecture and the exceptional location of each of his houses, it is the interior atmosphere that provokes the most emotion. The rooms are arranged in such a way that they withdraw us from the outside world and invite us to integrate the creative process of their author. As we move from one room to another, we no longer visit the house but become part of it. Moreover, Pablo Neruda was an unrepentant collector who had a veneration for the object. He particularly liked those of daily utility and he respected the love and the work that their makers poured into their realization.
Single or multiple objects provided him a satisfaction. There are the objects that evoke the sea that fascinated him so much, but also those that are attached to a memory, to an episode of his life, to a friendship, to a moment of sharing, to a trip, to the woman he venerated. These objects are so invested that they constitute the real inhabitants of these spaces and their accumulation is never suffocating. On the contrary, they are part of the poet’s work and participate in the narrative.
Is it the art of positioning these objects where they belong, of knowing how to pay tribute to them, or rather the art of having loved them so much that they become alive?
It is fascinating to note that everything in these three houses goes against aesthetic canons and yet their power of seduction is such that one comes out of them completely dazed. In fact, we do not leave the home but rather we extract ourselves from a poem. It is then strange to return as a human being whereas one had been caught to be part of the verses of Mr. Neruda without knowing it. This man definitely had the gift of the alchemist, transforming the substance into dreamy nebula.
Text from Claudia Gillet-Meyer and Photos from Régis Meyer and the Fondation Pablo Neruda
Fondation Pablo Neruda:
A blog about Pablo Neruda