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The Garden of Cosmic Speculation

The Garden of Cosmic Speculation
The Garden of Cosmic Speculation
The Garden of Cosmic Speculation
The Garden of Cosmic Speculation
The Garden of Cosmic Speculation
The Garden of Cosmic Speculation

Today I had been due to accompany a group of Russian visitors on a tour of the Garden of Cosmic Speculation, the creation of American architect Charles Jencks and his late wife Maggie Keswick. Sadly my Russians didn’t receive their visas on time and had to cancel their trip, but I decided to go along without them.

The name “Garden of Cosmic Speculation”, as Charles Jencks has written, came about because its creators used it as a spur to think about and celebrate some fundamental aspects of nature. He writes: “Many of these are quite normal to a garden: planting suitable species which are both a pleasure to eat and easy to grow in a wet, temperate climate. And others are unusual: inventing new waveforms, linear twists, and a new grammar of landscape design to bring out the basic elements of nature that recent science has found to underlie the cosmos.”

This unusual garden – if that is indeed what you would call it – is the creation of two scientific minds. As a linguist rather than a scientist, I was never going to understand it on the same level as Jencks and Keswick, but there is nonetheless much to appreciate here. Some of the most famous installations, such as the Black Hole checkerboard and the Universe Cascade, left me rather cold… but there are more subtle features, such as the gentle landforms that give a protective embrace to a row of old trees, that I found quite touching.

This is a place that deserves time and thought. The best time to visit it is certainly not on the one day of the year when it is open to the public (thousands of people and a loud pipe band do not aid quiet contemplation).

(Further reading: “The Garden of Cosmic Speculation” by Charles Jencks, published by Frances Lincoln.)

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