The maze, has been a fascinating element of the landscape since ancient times with the Cretan labyrinth being the oldest mentioned one. It was a very popular element of 16th century Renaissance gardens in Europe, serving not only as an interesting pastime, but also a focal point for thoughts on the source of life, human fate and our place in the universe. In the 17th and 18th centuries the labyrinths became even more elaborate and complicated; the design often included blind endings, ornamental ‘rooms’ or even pools and fountains. They also got harder to solve. For centuries labyrinths have been intriguing and inspiring to mankind; they were present in books, stories, legends and even films including the children’s classic “Labyrinth” ; they were designed by the most famous architects aiming to impress and excite the mind of both client and user. So let us delve in and have a look at the ten best ones, although by no means is this list definitive. 10. Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm Maze, Wraxall, UK
The controversial zoo owns the longest hedge maze in the world – 3.2 km long! In accordance with the zoo’s name, it is planted in a shape of an Ark with seven animals. The Ark hedges are planted with green beech; the outlines of the animals are laid out in copper beech. The trimmings are used to feed camels and giraffes. The maze is both fun and educational – the visitors can find the quickest path by answering biological questions correctly.
9. Schonbrunn Maze and Labyrinth, Vienna, Austria
The first maze in Schonbrunn was laid out between 1698 and 1740. Consisting of four different parts, the explorers could enter a pavilion in the center and admire the whole maze. During the 19th century the maze fell into ruin and in 1892 the hedges were destroyed. The maze as constructed today was rebuilt in 1998, according to the historical layout. It covers the area of 1715m2 and can be viewed from a platform in its center. Schonbrunn also owns a Labyrinth – an area devoted to games and puzzles, rebuilt according to the original design and covering 2700m2.
8. Longleat Maze, Longleat, UK
This beautiful and classical hedge maze, formed from over 16,000 English yews, and is situated on the grounds of the first safari park outside Africa. It was designed by Greg Bright in 1975 and covers 0.6 hectares. Six wooden bridges make the puzzle a three dimensional one. The target – an observation tower – takes between 20 to 90 minutes to reach. The Longleat Safari and Adventure Park boasts another maze named King Arthur’s Mirror Maze, where the visitors can join in the quest to discover the Holy Grail.
7. Cool Patch Pumpkins Maze, Dixon, USA
Cool Patch Pumpkins maze is a multiple winner of the Guinness prize in the “Largest maze, temporary corn / crop maze” category. Every year, the brothers Matt and Mark Cooley prepare the brand new design and each year it becomes bigger, better and more difficult to conquer! At first, a small 15 acres maze was supposed to encourage the customers to buy the pumpkins. Then the brothers became more ambitious; the 2011 maze covered 45 acres of ground and there are no signs that the brothers are planning to stop the expansion! Oh, and they still sell the pumpkins.
6. The Maze of Villa Pisani, Stra, Italy
Maze from 1720, designed by Gerolamo Frigimelica amuses the visitors to this day with its paths being considered the most difficult in the world. The tall hedges – once hornbeam, now box – planted in nine concentric circles obscure all the view apart from the central goal: a white turret with two small spiral staircases leading to the top, where the statue of Minerva, goddess of wisdom and the patron goddess of all arts strands. According to the legend, Napoleon himself was once lost here!
5. Samsø Labyrinten, Samsø, Denmark Samsø Labyrinten is an extremely large Danish maze built in an abandoned Christmas tree plantation. With an area of 60,000 m2 it was awarded the title of “the world’s largest permanent maze” by Guinness World Records TM in 2001 and 2005. It was created by Karen and Erik Poulsen and opened in 2000.
The couple converted an old, overgrown plantation of Nordmann fir into a maze by cutting paths according to a designed layout. The center of the labyrinth and its paths are decorated with wooden sculptures by Henry Wessel Fyhn. The sculptures depict many of the characters from Nordic mythology as well as Hans Christian Andersen and creatures from his stories. Samsø Labyrinten has a very natural look of an old fir forest. It also is very environmentally friendly and CO2 – Neutral!
4. Davis Mega Maze, Sterling, USA
Davis’ Mega Maze is an amazing cornfield maze in Massachusetts, USA. Every year, it is charming the visitors with a fresh design by world-famous designer Adrian Fisher. The themes varied from Dinosaurs in 2001, through The Wild West (2004) to Blackbeard’s Revenge (2011). The maze has more bridges than any other field maze in the world including the only double-decker bridge. It is also the only field maze in the world that has the capacity to change every day; this makes every experience absolutely unique.
3. Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth, Chartres, France
Built in the second decade of the 18th century, it is the widest known pavement labyrinth in the world. It is circular, measuring 12.9 meters in diameter and filling the width of the nave. The 11 circuit labyrinth is broken up by a cross laid over the entire design. Very little is known about the original purpose of the labyrinth. According to the researchers, it was the scene of annual Easter dances of the clergy. It was also supposed to illustrate the long, torturous path of the pilgrims visiting the cathedral. Its unique central rose and 112 cusps around the outside make it a priceless reminder of the medieval era.
2. Ashcombe Maze, Ashcombe, Australia Ashcombe is the home of three spectacular mazes: traditional hedge maze, Lavender Labyrinth and Rose Maze. Among those, the traditional hedge maze is probably the most famous, as well as being the oldest in Australia. The hedges, standing 3 meters high and 2 meters wide, form hundreds of metres of winding paths. The visitors have to discover four mosaic flags hidden in two halves of the maze. The Rose Maze is worth visiting from November to June, when the plants are in full bloom. The labyrinth contains over 1200 rose bushes from 200 species! 1. Hampton Court Maze, Hampton Court, UK The UK’s oldest surviving maze designed by George London and Henry Wise and was commissioned around 1700 by William III. It was originally planted with hornbeam and later replanted with yew. It is trapezoid in shape and famous for its dead ends, turns and twists. Since May 2005 a new art installation (elaborate) was provided – the visitor’s experience is now enhanced by more than a thousand self-generating sounds. So is the world of mazes something that intrigues you, do you have time for games, or maybe you are curious about about the psychological challenge that getting lost and finding your way gives you. Is a maze just a physical puzzle or is it a symbol of life, showing us that there are many paths to our ultimate goal however, often one must take the wrong path to discover the true one. Article Written by Marta Ratajszczak
This article was originally submitted to Landscape Architects NetworkPublished in