Jencks honed this cosmology at his Scottish house in Portrack, Dumfries, in the Garden of Cosmic Speculation. It is an extraordinary place. Begun in 1989, the 30-acre site questions the fundamental laws of nature. Thus, for example, the Universe Cascade. Emerging from the terrace behind the house, this enfilade of stepped waterfalls traces the 15-billion-year story of the universe. Further along, a curved bridge describes a comet’s trail. A tiled area of steel slabs and lawn squares spells out the all-consuming gravity of a black hole. Lakes and landforms illustrate mathematical fractals. Even the sheet-metal greenhouse roof ridge bears equations of physics. The idea behind it, explains Jencks, is the creation of a microcosm of the universe, an experience of nature at a deeper and more sensuous level. Everyday landscaping it is not.
Reactions of visitors range from “weird” to “wonderful”, he says. “But most of them understand that the garden is part of a long historical tradition. Japanese Zen gardens, Persian paradise gardens, the English and French Renaissance gardens all played out the story of the cosmos as it was then understood.” Today, Jencks says, European gardens tend to be harmonious combinations of flowers and foliage, devoid of allegory or metaphor. But he believes that everything — architecture, art, gardening — should be content-driven.