Since ancient times, outer space has fascinated humankind. In recent times, it has inspired all kinds of creative work from science fiction books such as Arthur C. Clarkes’s 2001: A Space Odyssey to sci-fi TV shows and movies such as Star Trek and Star Wars. This week’s post features some other unusual tributes to outer space: The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, the International UFO Museum and Research Center, the Rocket Thrower, and the Unisphere.
The Garden of Cosmic Speculation
The Garden of Cosmic Speculation is a 30-acre garden located in Dumfries, Scotland, at Portrack House, the private residence of architect and landscape designer Charles Jencks and his late wife, Maggie Keswick. This garden is supposed to be a re-creation of aspects of outer space such as black holes and the Big Bang. Snail-shaped hills, landscape features shaped like geometric fractals, and geometrical architectural structures such as steel curves provide visitors with an earthly miniature of the universe.
Why did he build this garden? Here is Jencks’ explanation:
“To see the world in a Grain of Sand, the poetic insight of William Blake, is to find relationships between the big and small, science and spirituality, the universe and the landscape. This cosmic setting provides the narrative for my content-driven work, the writing and design. I explore metaphors that underlie both growing nature and the laws of nature, parallels that root us personally in the cosmos as firmly as a plant, even while our mind escapes this home.”
The International UFO Museum and Research Center
Located in Roswell, New Mexico, the International UFO Museum and Research Center (also known as the Roswell UFO Museum) is a museum that focuses its attention on the famous Roswell Incident that happened in 1947. The U.S. government initially explained this incident as the crash of a weather balloon, but over the years another more dramatic story evolved as the result of research of government documents and interviews with people directly involved in the incident: The weather balloon was actually an alien spacecraft, and dead aliens were recovered from it. Several books have been written about it over the years, but the story remains controversial.
The International UFO Museum and Research Center features exhibits on the Roswell Incident as well as exhibits about crop circles, Area 51, and a few other related topics. It also contains a library where anyone who is curious about UFOs can conduct their own research.
This museum is a popular tourist attraction. In an interview for RoadsideAmerica.com, the late museum director Julie Schuster stated that “83 percent of the UFO Museum’s visitors came to Roswell just to see this museum, and that it’s among the top five most-visited in the state.”
Exterior of the Museum
Alien Autopsy Museum Exhibit
The Rocket Thrower and the Unisphere
The Rocket Thrower and the Unisphere were created for the New York World’s Fair of 1964-65. They reflect one of the fair’s central themes: space exploration.
The Rocket Thrower
Donald DeLue created the Rocket Thrower in less than six months at a cost of $105,000. According to the official website of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, the Rocket Thrower is a massive 43-foot high bronze statue that “was based on designs for the theme of ‘man conquering space,’” which DeLue developed years earlier for another project. DeLue had an idealistic perspective of the Rocket Thrower. He saw it as “’the spiritual concept of man’s relationship to space and his venturesome spirit backed up by all the powers of his intelligence for the exploration of a new dimension.’” However, not everyone shared his vision. For example, The New York Times art reviewer John Canaday called the Rocket Thrower “’the most lamentable monster, making Walt Disney look like Leonardo Da Vinci.’”
The Rocket Thrower in Recent Times
The Unisphere was literally the centerpiece of the New York World’s Fair of 1964-1965. It is a huge 350-ton globe with a 120-foot diameter, and it was designed by landscape architect Gilmore D. Clarke. According to the official website of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, it was supposed to celebrate “both the dawn of the space age and the fair’s broader theme of ‘Peace Through Understanding.’” Its three orbital rings were supposed to “represent the tracks of early satellites.” The Unisphere was supposed to be a rotating sculpture, but it turned out to be too expensive to try to make this massive globe spin around. Instead, the people involved with the Unisphere project opted to use “lights and fountain water jets” to “create an illusion of movement.” In addition, lenses lit by flashing lights drew attention to the capital cities of the world marked on the Unisphere.
The Unisphere in 1964
The Unisphere in 2015
Although the New York World’s Fair took place more than 50 years ago, both the Rocket Thrower and the Unisphere still remain. They can still be seen in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in New York. Both have suffered weathering over the years. Some restoration work was done to the Unisphere in 1994, and plans to restore the Rocket Thrower are underway. Hopefully, these conservation efforts will ensure that people will see these space-themed sculptures for many years to come.