Cultivating Cosmic Speculation in a Garden
Following the archetypal function of the garden, this space acts as a reflective laboratory in favor of evolutionary eccentricity.
To keep a garden is also to tell a story, one that is as infinitely malleable and seasonal as life itself. After all, gardening, so natural in appearance, is maintained by the hand that shapes it and removes its fatigue, which organizes and unfolds its resources with artificiality to create a beauty that can only be the result of an agreement between the natural and the divine; but making a garden requires some extravagance.
Within a garden, each tree, each shrub, each one of the intertwining branches will be saying something about the world and, of course, of the gardener that planted it. An extraordinary example of this is Scottish landscaper Charles Jencks and his wife Maggie Kesicky, who intervened a natural space to tell the story of the cosmos as we understand it today: the Garden of Cosmic Speculation.
The idea of the garden as a microcosm is part of an extensive historical tradition. The Zen Japanese gardens, the Persian garden-paradises, the English and French Gardens of the Renaissance, each represent the history of the cosmos exactly as it was understood at the time. The garden was, and always will be, a place where we can think about nature, as well as contemplate and speculate about the origins of the universe. Jencks’ garden translates this speculative inherence as a metaphysical and chaotic amusement park. A celestial metaphor.
Jencks began to build his garden in 1989 in Portrack House, near Dumfries, Scotland, and as any good gardener would do, he let himself be taken in by the stories that his plants and their distributions told him. At first, he designed it in accordance with some of the principles of ancient Chinese gardening, with long, curved paths that dreamily guided the wanderer through special sceneries. But, slowly, the same paths led him to meditate on the mechanism of the universe, on how it operates through contortions and parabolas: and from that point onwards, his garden was set to emulate the designs of modern cosmic theories. To telling that story that contains all the other stories that it could ever chose to tell.
The Garden of Cosmic Speculation combines very obvious elements, such as the helical structure of DNA, the Fibonacci sequence, and fractals; with other less obvious like the mystery of birth and death, the problem of right and wrong, black holes. In twelve acres covered by grass, bridges, terraces, lakes, waterfalls and architectural works, the exuberant garden celebrates intellect and human senses to understand perhaps a driblet of the Theory of Chaos.
For reasons as unusual as those that inspired his landscape work, Jencks only opens his garden to the public one day a year. This, of course, makes us speculate even more. His garden is one of the few that remain in the Western world that is fundamentally devoted to dialogue, through curves and equations, with the universe —which in itself is a manifesto of eccentric elegance.
But, at the end of the day, Jencks uses nature to speak of nature; and her, as always, does her part: speak of creation.
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