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Crawick Multiverse

Crawick Multiverse; Or The Mine That Became A Space Garden


Artist Charles Jencks transformed a southern Scottish coal mine into a field that emulates the very structure of the universe.

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour

—William Blake

A few years ago, the entire universe was recreated in an immense Scottish garden. It’s an impressive metaphorical exercise, green as the Scottish valleys, called Crawick Multiverse in Dumfries & Galloway, near the small town of Sanquhar, in southern Scotland.

The colossal project was funded by the Duke of Buccleuch, and the design was born in the extravagant mind of Charles Jencks, a dedicated landscape artist who created an outer space garden inside of what had been an open-pit coal mine in an area worn out and abandoned for many years. The 22-hectare site boasts some 2,000 boulders, as well as mounds of earth and other human-made structures intended to emulate the systems of the universe and to illustrate many of the more recent theories about outer space and its configuration.

Jencks began by dividing the land in two along a straight path running from north to south and bordered by boulders. In this strange cosmic garden, two mountains rise in spirals to represent the two galaxies, the Milky Way and its nearest neighbor, Andromeda. The two will eventually collide, in about 4 billion years. These mounds remind visitors, on a much smaller scale, what a galactic agglutination really is: immense spirals of stones.

Stones arranged in a spiral on green grass.

Within Crawick Multiverse, one will find a representation of the supercluster of galaxies from which emerged both the Milky Way and Andromeda. It’s one of the largest formations in the known universe, and in which galaxies are grouped and arranged according only to the designs of gravity. In the garden, the supercluster is a circular area filled with rocks graciously arranged to represent groups of galaxies. The space has its own multiverse – a hypothetical home to the many universes believed to exist and whose appearance within Jencks’ green universe is also a tribute to the Neolithic monuments of the British Isles. Finally, at the center of the garden is a solar amphitheater surrounded by structures simulating comet collisions, black holes, and a wormhole.

Few practices are as intuitive as land art, and Jencks’ garden is the perfect example. An ephemeral discipline, older than art itself, land art implies a common language between nature and humankind, and one which uses the landscape as both canvas and material. The message is always about nature and, in this case, the one that exists beyond the borders of our planet and our knowledge (hence the beauty of its hypothetical quality).

Bricks and stones arranged in a Celtic design.

A garden, conceptually, is necessarily an artifice intended to reflect what we understand as nature. At Crawick Multiverse, the metaphor extends into the infinity of the unknown outer space that is our home. It sustains this powerful analogy which transforms the garden into the universe, circumscribed by the infinite (and all surrounded by the tender Scottish grass). Jencks’ undertaking also supports a noble purpose (like many other works of land art), to recover a site that had been a scar, and thus, to recover a little of what had been damaged.

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