What better use for an old coal mine than a whole new universe? This is just what the Duke of Buccleuch and architect Charles Jencks did with an open cast coal mine located within Scotland’s Lowther Hills. The 22-hectare site was an industrial eyesore and since it was no longer in use, local villagers lobbied the duke to do something with it. But the villagers didn’t just want it to look better -- they also wanted something that would replace the jobs lost when the coal mine closed down. The result is the the Crawick Multiverse, a universe made up entirely out of plants, dirt and rocks.
According to The New Scientist, at first sight, the area looks like a system of earthworks “dominated by two vast mounds and two stone circles,” but after looking at the map, one finds that the mounds represent the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies. There is also a third fallen circle of earthworks that stands for a supercluster of galaxies and another that is a multiverse that our own universe is likely a part of. Binding everything together are paths that circle and wind around the different “galactic” mounds and then join in a black hole at the summits. Other “celestial signifiers” are scattered throughout, like lines of rock that show off comet impacts and a cluster of megaliths standing on ridge that points to the north star.
A ring of rocks spirals to represents the multiverse, using over 100 boulders. Each boulder represents a different universe and, accordingly, has different laws of physics. One says, “GRAVITY 2 STRONG” and is shaped like a biconvex lens and the other, which says “WELL-BALANCED,” opens out from a thin channel into a broad vase-like shape.
Then there is the The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, located in Dumfries, Scotland, which is about half the size of the Crawick Multiverse, and is full of art, ornaments and horticultural features that show off ideas from modern science. There is a kitchen garden, for example, which explores the structure of DNA and a steep waterfall that shows the history of the universe. Each level represents a different development from the big bang to the beginning of life. While some are skeptical that this vast multiverse of cosmic delight will bring an audience, Jencks is sure that if “you build it, they will come.”
Jencks has created additional other-worldly landscapes, such as the Spirals of Time in Milan and Northumberlandia in Newcastle, UK.
“Once you know a landscape is meaningful, you read it in a different way,” he says. “You get more out of it than I put in.”
Images via Charles Jencks