Charles Jencks

Charles Jenks

October 9, 2014
Annual UPIAV conference

Harmony and Disharmony in the Universe

My work in landscape design seeks to mirror the reality of beauty and ugliness in the universe and, like much art, dramatises the differences. I believe that aesthetics and enjoyment cut across the conventional categories and are inclusive conditions. Working with scientists such as James Watson, I accept his view that the beauty of DNA (in some of its forms) is present and undeniable; but so too is the ugliness of many RNA molecules (and I will be showing some of this work). The Planck space mission of 2013 revealed that the universe may be asymmetrical and “inelegant,” and in any case we may be part of a larger Multiverse, the subject of recent landscape work I will also be showing (from the Garden of Cosmic Speculation to Cern and forward). Metaphysics has returned.

A landscape architect, by definition, relates the art of garden design to the bigger picture – the earth, ecology and nature as a whole. That’s why I refer to “the universe in the landscape” and make this the narrative, seeking to show the many relations between the very big and very little, the macrocosm and microcosm. William Blake famously wrote about these analogies of sight:

  To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour

William Blake’s comparison between the whole world and a grain of sand is typical of how we perceive the unknown in terms of the familiar, that is, through metaphor. Beyond this, as sentient people that feel their relationship to nature, we also identify both with living and dead objects, with animals and rocks, indeed we are natural-born animists.

Charles Jencks
architect and historian, Edinburgh
Charles Jencks is the author of several best-selling books on architecture, and his design work is published in The Garden of Cosmic Speculation and The Universe in the Landscape (both Frances Lincoln Ltd, London). He divides his time between lecturing, writing and designing in the UK and elsewhere. He co-founded the Maggie cancer caring centres and continues to take an active role in seeing them develop. The Crawick Multiverse is opening in 2015.

Suncheon Bay Garden Expo 2013
Suncheon Bay Garden Expo 2013 – © Kim Tae Su, South Korea

Universe Cascade Aerial
Universe Cascade Aerial – © Charles Jencks