|Surrealist mushroom and Bird of Paradise sculptures near the entrance to Las Pozas
|Las Pozas (The Pools)
Being somewhat disillusioned with British society, James came to the United States and then moved to Los Angeles, which in my experience is not the best place to escape such a predicament. While there he found a guru who chastised his wealth as a barrier to spirituality. Under the encouragement of his cousin, the artist Briget Bate Tichenor and psychiatrist Eric Fromm, he came to Mexico in 1941 in part to search for a place reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. After arriving in Cuernavaca, which had a substancial well to do American community, he hired as his guide Plutarco Gastélum, a man who worked in the telegraph office. He bought two sleeping bags, and they set out in a car to explore the country. In November of 1945 they came upon the town of Xilitla, a mountain village at 2,000 feet in elevation surrounded by lush jungle, southwest of the Gulf coast city of Tampico in the Sierra Madre Oriental.
|A view of Xilitla from the road to Las Pozas
|La Posada El Castillo
Edward James would come to Mexico for two months every summer and stay with Gastélum's family, whom he adopted. The house had the town's only swimming pool, lush gardens, and fantastic architectural details that were expanded at the same time as Las Pozas. James sent Gastélum and his wife Marina on a tour of Europe that inspired the Gothic elements in the house.
|The entrance path to La Posada El Castillo
The death of so many plants triggered the decision to build concrete sculpture in the garden for its permanence, something that couldn't be killed. In the end the garden covered an expansive 80 acres of steeply sloping land.
|This gate guards the valley leading to the above waterfall
I also found a wonderful BBC podcast which I recommend you listen two while you scroll down through the photos.
|A plan of the garden
|Pathway to the lower pools
|Trellis like projections between the walls
While I opted not to do a guided tour, I passed and listened in on some of them over the 3 days that I spent in the gardens, and overheard one in Spanish saying that there was once a trampoline you could jump on to plunge in to one of the pools. There are remnants of diving platforms jutting from the cliff as well. The pools must have silted up as they seem too shallow for diving now.
|Columns capped with lush epiphytic vegetation
|Entrance to the Cinematografo
|Path leading to the Cinematografo
|Escalera al Cielo, the Stairway to the Sky on top of the Cinemagrafo
|A cobbled path leading to the Queen's Ring Gate
|A traditional cobbled path lined with Maranta and Aluminum Plant, Pilea cadierei
|Looking back after passing through the Queen's Ring Gate, a line of stone mosaic serpents rise along the path called 'The way of the seven deadly sins'
|Avenida de Serpientes, bird of paradise, pillars, and mushrooms
|Sculpted concrete leaves at the base of a stylized mushroom
|A series of delicate arches emulates a flock of birds
|Steps leading to new vantage points
|La Tienda, The Store
|The Cornucopia, Vegetal forms taken to a surreal level
|Looking down on stylized mushrooms with Bird of Paradise buttresses
|Flying arches connected to tendril like 'S' curves
|Steps leading down to the Plaza San Isidro
At the base of a cabana are a pair of sculpted hands by which the garden was created. I've also made mosaics of my hands to honor the hard work they have endured to build what my mind imagines, so I was particularly taken by these sculptures.
|Sculpture of Plutarco Gastelum's hands
|Bird like buttresses support the wall of a small cabana with slender doors forming a fleur de lis
|Green stones from the streams were used to create this simple flower mosaic
|Formed concrete and traditional stone work are artfully combined to create a fountain and round window
|Looking back through the jungle at the Escalera al Cielo
|A cat lounges on a wall above the Parrot House
|The Parrot House
|The Parrot House
|Protruding steps connect four intersecting paths
|The Plaza San Isidro was the daily gathering place where Edward James would meet with the workers to discuss each day's projects
|Steps as sculpture in the Plaza San Isidro
|Structures blend beautifully with the jungle. One of the inspirations at Las Pozas were the ruins at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, where magnificent architecture is wrapped in the roots of trees and vines.
|The purple undersides of Heliconia leaves makes for marvelous patterns
|Trees are laden with epiphytic plants
|Looking down in to one of the clear bathing pools
|Puente de Fleur de Lis
|The Flamingo House
|Fluted Columns by the Deer Pens
|Fleur de Lis
|Two staircases lead to the Saint Peter and Saint Paul gate of the House on three floors which will in fact have five or four or six
|The House on three floors which will in fact have five or four or six
|The Bamboo Palace
|The Bamboo Palace
|Stairs in the Bamboo Palace
|The House with a roof like a whale and the Bathtub shaped like an eye
|Inside the House with a roof like a whale
|The Double Bamboo Screen
|Bamboo gracefully arches over the ravine
|A glimpse of the highest waterfall through trees draped in bromeliads
|Fleur de Lis built in to a wall
|A concrete garland connects two vase like columns about the stream
|Looking down to the lower pools I went to when I first entered the garden
|Sitting on a beautiful teardrop shaped bath with the Temple of the Ducks behind
|Oval spoked wheel set in a wall
|The outlet for a dam
|A butterfly rests on a wall by the stream
|Cascades dropping in to the pool by the Temple of the Ducks
|Columns and a vase at the base of waterfalls
|Stone stairs and the double bamboo screen
|A narrow arch over a path in the jungle
|A round gate draped in Bird Nest Ferns
|A set of overgrown steps climbs the steep bank on the other side of the stream, possibly leading to somewhere or nowhere
|Looking down the tall waterfall to the pools below
|A small mosaic I built in the stream
|More beautiful bathing pools
|The Garden of Eden
|Marvelous foliage along the banks of the stream
|Another waterfall you can crawl behind
|Bamboo screens along the road
|A statue of Edward James with one of his beloved parrots
|A symposium held last year
|A new stone wall with an eye shaped windo
Thanks for reading, Jeffrey
I have seen such beauty as one man has seldom seen;
therefore will I be grateful to die in this little room,
surrounded by the forests, the great green gloom
of trees my only gloom – and the sound, the sound of green.
Here amid the warmth of the rain, what might have been
is resolved into the tenderness of a tall doom
who says: 'You did your best, rest' – and after you the bloom
of what you loved and planted still will whisper what you mean.
And the ghosts of the birds I loved, will attend me each a friend;
like them shall I have flown beyond the realm of words.
You, through the trees, shall hear them, long after the end
calling me beyond the river. For the cries of birds
continue, as – defended by the cortege of their wings –
my soul among strange silences yet sings.
—Edward James, Poet 1907 – 1984