nature is a co-creator in any garden

117608839_361596cWho can overlay a landscape/garden with cosmic underpinning? Charles Jencks.  Known as a cultural theorist, landscape designer, architectural historian and co-founder of Maggie’s Cancer Care Centres, Jencks believes in the metaphor of the universe as artist.  Tracing the beginnings of these ideas from Plato to Constantine, who fought with his back to the sun in order to blind his enemies, to Louis XIV, the Sun King, to the stone cutters of Keswick Circle…   What is a garden if not a celebration of our place in the universe? Jencks


Castlerigg Stone Circle near Keswick in Cumbria, North West England. Constructed as part of the megalithic tradition that lasted from 3,300 to 900 BC during the Early Bronze Age. There is archaelogoical speculation that the circle may have been a meeting place where axes were traded or exchanged – Wikipedia

Jencks believes we have a crisis of meaning in our culture.  His work is all about meaning – an intellectual construct he has created based on scientific theory. “… I do believe architecture,and all art, should be content-driven.” Jencks, Totally cosmic:  The Life Mounds of Charles Jencks, June 2011, The Guardian


Science and particularly, geometry and astronomy, were linked directly to the the divine for most medieval scholars. These Christians believed God imbued the universe with regular geometric and harmonic principles, to seek these principles was therefore to seek and worship God – wikipedia. Image from 1250. Image shown by Charles Jencks

Jencks showed many slides – some of his work.  The theoretical foundation for the creation of the mounds was so cerebral it was hard to comprehend.  “Meaning is an aphrodisiac in an age of aestheticism.”  Jencks.  These gardens/landforms, according to Jencks, are not conceptual or symbolic, but gardens that are expressions of cosmological theory. I failed to see the difference.


Cells of Life, Jupiter Artland, Kirknewton, near Edinburgh, 2003-2010!projects-jupiter-artland

Unlike, many other garden/landform designers who show their work in slide form,  it is hard to imagine what is the experience of walking through a space designed by Charles Jencks.  In his gardens, Jencks purposely places signage, explaining the cosmological meaning of his work. What would be my gut reaction to meandering my way around these mounds?  I didn’t know.  As I predicted on the way into the lecture hall, I left with a metaphorical (cosmic) headache.


Image from Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds a popular science book by French author Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle published in 1686. Written in french instead of Latin, one of the first books to attempt to explain scientific theories and specifically addressed to female readers – wikipedia Image shown by Charles Jencks.

After the lecture, I had dinner with a group of gardening friends.  “Isn’t it amazing.  Most Americans don’t even own a passport; if they have traveled it’s to another state or perhaps across the country to visit a relative or national park.  We just spent two hours listening to someone talk about the multiuniverse, black holes, solar flares, basically the entire question of the cosmos, as we know it or don’t know it.” Mark

It was an awesome lecture, even if was incomprehensible.

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….

-Auguries of Innocence
By William Blake

18th Annual Landscape Design Portfolio Lecture Series:
Artistic Expression in the Landscape
Charles Jencks
The Unierse as Artist
October 17, 2016

and more…!publications!articles-by-charles-jencks!a-short-narrative


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