Charles Jencks and Daniel Libeskind in Cosmic Collision

Creator of artland inspired by cosmology and the designer of an extragalactic astronomy centre come together in Scottish town hall

Two highly influential figures on architectural culture will join forces in a small Scottish town to discuss the influence of cosmology on their work.

Architect Daniel Libeskind and architectural theorist and land artist Charles Jencks, creator of Crawick Multiverse, are among the main participants at the Cosmic Collisions event which includes a day of talks, on 24 June, examining the nature and origins of the universe. Both are also contributing to an accompanying exhibition, entitled Cosmic Collisions, Birth, Rebirth and the Universe.

This will feature previously unseen drawings by Libeskind showing how spiral galaxies lie at the heart of his design for the new £11.5 million Ogden Centre for Fundamental Physics, which houses the Institute for Computational Cosmology, Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy and Centre for Advanced Instrumentation at the University of Durham.

A new series of paintings by Jencks will also be on show. These look at how seemingly calamitous events like the collision of galaxies are immensely creative, leading to the birth of millions of new stars.

Libeskind says: “My work is driven by the love of architecture, its space, light, and musical proportions as they engage history and the particulars of a site. My discussion will focus on what gives meaning to architecture forms, be it spiral galaxies, historical disasters or the rebirth of places.”

Cosmic Collisions takes place in the small and picturesque town of Sanquhar, in Dumfries and Galloway, close to Crawick Multiverse – a world-class 55-acre artland created by Jencks and inspired by space, astronomy and cosmology.

Libeskind added: “I was lucky to visit Scotland a number of times and I’m thrilled to be able to come to Sanquhar with so much history, relevance, architecture, and natural beauty – a true inspiration.”

A further aspect of the event will be the unveiling of a new installation by Jencks at Crawick Multiverse. This focuses on the destruction and fecundity of cosmic collisions, whether they are at galactic level or involving something like the meteor strike that wiped out the dinosaurs and made room for the emergence of mammals and ultimately our own species.

The relationship between Libeskind, who designed the Jewish Museum in Berlin and Ground Zero in New York, and Jencks goes back for decades.

As a young architecture student Libeskind’s thinking was profoundly influenced by Jencks’ book Meaning in Architecture. Jencks in turn has been fulsome in his praise of the Ogden Centre and its “tremendous finesse”.

Jencks says: “We are very fortunate to be able to welcome Daniel and a series of other international speakers to Cosmic Collisions. It isn’t every day you get the chance to meet and hear leading artists, architects and space scientists in an intimate setting like Sanquhar Town Hall.

“I have known Daniel for many years, and sometimes worked with him, and it will be a very great pleasure to welcome him to this part of Scotland.

“We recently met at the Ogden Centre and I regard it is a wonderful piece of work. Everything seems tilted, colliding and smashing together, but when you get inside it’s all flat floors. I kept thinking to myself ‘whodunit? It’s a mystery’.”

The Cosmic Collisions, Birth, Rebirth and the Universe exhibition is at the Merz Gallery in Sanquhar and will also feature work by artist Rachel Libeskind in her first collaboration with her brother Noam, a cosmologist.

The event and other speakers

The space scientists taking part in the event are:

  • Martin Hendry, Glasgow University Professor of Astrophysics, a leading member of the 1,000-strong international LIGO-Virgo team, which recently detected ripples in space and time caused by the collision of two black holes three billion light years from Earth.
  • Carlos Frenk, Ogden Professor of Fundamental Physics and Director of the Institute for Computational Cosmology, Durham University
  • Monica Grady, Open University Professor of Planetary and Space Sciences
  • Noam Libeskind, Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Deputy Head of the Cosmology and Large Scale Structure Group.

Event information