Las Pozas ("the Pools") is a surrealistic group of structures created by Edward James, more than 2,000 feet (610 m) above sea level, in a subtropical rainforest in the Sierra Gorda mountains of Mexico. It includes more than 80 acres (32 ha) of natural waterfalls and pools interlaced with towering surrealist sculptures in concrete.[1]

Las Pozas, Xilitla, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, 24 September 2011

Location and conception edit

Las Pozas is near the village of Xilitla, San Luis Potosí, a seven-hour drive north of Mexico City. In the early 1940s, James went to Los Angeles, California, and then decided that he "wanted a Garden of Eden set up . . . and I saw that Mexico was far more romantic" and had "far more room than there is in crowded Southern California".[2] In Hollywood in 1941, his lifetime friend and cousin, Magic Realist painter Bridget Bate Tichenor, encouraged him to search for a surreal location in Mexico to express his diverse esoteric interests.[3] In Cuernavaca, he hired Plutarco Gastelum as a guide. They came to know Xilitla in November 1945.[1] Eventually, Plutarco got married and had four children. James was "Uncle Edward" to the children and frequently stayed with them in a house Plutarco had built, a mock-Gothic cement castle, now a hotel – La Posada El Castillo.[4]

Construction edit

Between 1949 and 1984, James built scores of surreal concrete structures which carry the names The House on Three Floors Which Will in Fact Have Five or Four or Six, The House with a Roof like a Whale, and The Staircase to Heaven.[4] There were also plantings and beds full of tropical plants, including orchids — there were, apparently, 29,000 at Las Pozas at one time[5] — and a variety of small homes, niches, and pens that held exotic birds and wild animals from the world over—James owned many exotic animals and once even took his pet boa constrictors to the Hotel Francis in Mexico City.[4]

Massive sculptures up to four stories tall punctuate the site. The many trails throughout the garden site are composed of steps, ramps, bridges and narrow, winding walkways that traverse the valley walls.[6] Construction of Las Pozas cost more than $5 million. To pay for it, James sold his collection of surrealistic art at an auction.[4]

In the construction of the structures, large amounts of workers were always needed. It is said for an average project over 40 masons, carpenters, bricklayers and black smiths were needed. From the beginning of La Pozas to the death of Edward James it is approximated he employed over 100 local workers. [7]

Upon hearing of James’ death, Plutarco Gastélum halted construction of Las Pozas leaving several structures unfinished.[8]

Surrealism edit

Edward James had a passion for the surrealism style and he believed he was born a surrealist.[7] He created Las Pozas as his expression of surrealism. He often emphasized how Mexico is “naturally surrealistic” and how he wanted the structures he was designing to form part of that.[9] He went to great lengths to achieve his desired surrealistic style in creating his sculptures and at one point he also conducted electricity from the nearby town Xilitla to light up the forest.[9]

Design and creation edit

One significant artisan who played a large role in the creation of the concrete sculptures is Jose Aguilar, a skilled Mexican carpenter.[8] Using the sketches and designs of Edward James he made wooden molds in which cement could be poured in through, and when dried would harden to the shape of the mold.[10]

Originally, James Edward used his stay in San Luis Potosi, Mexico as a ground to grow orchids and create his own private zoo.[11] For this reason, many of the original structures found in Las Pozas at one point were meant to house his pets: deer, flamingos, ducks, boa constrictors, etc. Jose Horna was the artisan who was given the job to create the cages for the boa constrictors. [8]

Besides the structures designed for the animals, most of the structures the James’ brought to life had no intended functionality, their main purpose was purely for aesthetics.[9]

Edward James often described how wanted his structures to form part of nature and/or blend into it. For this reason many of his designs were of plants, flowers, mushrooms and other natural elements. There are arches made to imitate plants like the Indian shot leaves (papatla), flowers made of concrete and birds made of concrete. [8]

Edward James, at one point had also constructed a house made of concrete, bricks and bamboo in which he resided when he traveled to Mexico. [8]

One of the most popular structures would have to be  “the stairway to heaven,” which refers to the concrete structure composed of columns that imitate the reproductive aspects of an orchid flower, with two staircases spiraling around them and connecting at the height of 20m. [7]

Ownership edit

After the death of Edward James in 1984, Plutarco Gastélum Esquer, a Yaqui indian who was a photographer. He met James when he first traveled to Mexico became responsible for Las Pozas, which he unkept for a couple years in the 1980’s. Gastélum had always overseen construction for Las Pozas while James was not in Mexico as he was the true land owner of La Conchita. However due to the strong financial burden of its upkeep Gastélum was forced to take certain measures. At first, he had sold parts of the land for which Las Posas reside on. Due to the Mexican law that declares waterways federal property any, in 1994 the land was opened to the public which eventually led to its declaration of a state culture heritage site in 2006.[8]  

In the summer of 2007, the Fundación Pedro y Elena Hernández, the company Cemex, and the government of San Luis Potosí paid about $2.2 million for Las Pozas and created Fondo Xilitla, a foundation that oversees the preservation and restoration of the site.[1]

Tourist attraction edit

As a result of opening Las Pozas to the public in 1994, the town of Xilita began to receive a higher number of tourists. [8]

Today one can visit Las Pozas to see the sculptures of Edward James and also to bathe in the natural pools found in the area. Tours are available to take. There are several hotels surrounding the area and restaurants that surfaced as a result of the area's gain of popularity.

Gallery edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c "Dream Works: Can a Legendary Surrealist Garden in Mexico Bloom Again?", New York Times Style Magazine, 30 March 2008
  2. ^ Margaret Hooks, "Surreal Eden: Edward James & Las Pozas" Archived 2017-05-25 at the Wayback Machine, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2006, ISBN 978-1-56898-612-8
  3. ^ Bridget Bate Tichenor Biography
  4. ^ a b c d Gini Alhadeff, "Concrete Jungle", Travel + Leisure", September 2003
  5. ^ Joanna Moorhead, "The Magic Kingdom (James' Las Pozas, Mexico)", The Guardian, 6 November 2007
  6. ^ "Los Pozas – steps and falls" Archived 2008-04-16 at the Wayback Machine, virtual tour of the grounds of Las Pozas, DVD, published 2007; retrieved 30 March 2008
  7. ^ a b c Holmes, Mathew. “A Garden of Earthly Delights.” AA Files, no. 66, 2013, pp. 37–41. JSTOR, Accessed 4 May 2021.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Matchette, Nicole. "A Proposed Approach for Stabilizing Verdant Concrete of Stairway to the Sky, Las Pozas, Mexico." (2011).
  9. ^ a b c Degollado Brito, Mauricio. "Xilitla, The Architectural Delirium of Edward James." Voices of Mexico (2007)
  10. ^ Audefroy, Joel. "Arquitectura surrealista de Edward James." (2004).
  11. ^ De Maria, Walter. "The Lightning Field." Artforum 18 (1980): 52-59

External links edit

21°23′49″N 98°59′49″W / 21.3970°N 98.9970°W / 21.3970; -98.9970