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Amazing Mazes

Aprile 2011
Perdersi in un labirinto è un po’ come tornare bambini. Per Adrian Fisher è una professione. Il massimo designer di labirinti al mondo ci racconta la storia di questo antichissimo passatempo, storicamente riservato ai nobili.

di Julian Earwaker

File audio:

The stone maze
The stone maze
Adrian Fisher
Adrian Fisher

Getting lost can be a frightening and stressful experience. But there is one way to do it that’s guaranteed fun: entering a maze. Choosing your own routes, meeting dead-ends, planning together and playing, mazes offer a satisfying combination of puzzle solving and shared experience. According to British maze designer Adrian Fisher, they are “a very genteel form of getting lost.”

AN ANCIENT ART

As the world’s leading maze designer, Fisher has been responsible for getting millions of people lost through the 30-plus years of his career. Fortunately, his designs also ensure that it’s not too difficult to find a way out.  
Mazes have fascinated humans for more than 4,000 years. The earliest mazes were labyrinths – single paths of stones or mosaic laid out in geometric patterns. “They symbolised the path of life,” explains Fisher. “A single way through time from birth to death. There are no choices, just twists and turns.” The idea of one true path, a grand design and designer – or god – fitted well with religious beliefs. Most major religions have traditions of using labyrinth designs.
The earliest idea for using mazes with different paths and dead-ends came from the fifteenth century Venetian physician Giovanni Fontana. Before long his designs were being used in the gardens of Renaissance Europe, where mazes were constructed using evergreen herbs.
Taller mazes were soon built that provided popular forms of entertainment for royalty and aristocrats. But then the age of mazes ended as the fashion required more ‘natural’ garden designs.

A GAME OF CHESS

Adrian Fisher built his first maze in his father’s garden back in 1975. It was the beginning of a life-long passion and he has since created more than 500 mazes across 30 countries worldwide. He believes that the secret of good maze design involves both artistic impression and technical merit. “It’s like a game of chess down the centuries between the designer and the public,” he says. “I’ve played all my moves in advance but I finally have got to let you win – and let you win just before you’ve had enough!”
Fisher and his team have pioneered most of the new forms of maze construction over the past 30 years. Fisher himself designed the world’s first corn maze in America in 1993. The walls were over four metres high! He came up with the idea of handing out flags on poles so that people could see where others were.

IMAGINATION

Fisher is an “imagineer” – someone who combines the skills of imagination and engineering. His designs have moved on with new technology. Not only do many mazes use themes and storylines, there are now new ways to enjoy getting lost: from magical mirror mazes that appear six times bigger than they really are to laser mazes.
There will, of course, always be a place for the classic hedge maze. The key, says Fisher, is to make sure that mazes remain a social experience. “I think we should rediscover the joy of being kids,” he says. “Relax, play, go in… and get lost together!”

THE MEANING OF LIFE

LANGUAGE LEVEL C1 (ADVANCED)

Speaker: Justin Ratcliffe (Standard British accent)

The words “maze” and “amazing” have the same etymology: they both “confuse” people. And Adrian Fisher knows a lot about the subject. He is generally considered to be the world’s leading maze  – or labyrinth – designer. He also creates puzzles and, according to The Guardian newspaper, he is one of Britain’s top 50 designers, in all fields. We went to visit him at his home in Dorset. We asked him whether the most satisfying thing about visiting a maze was the art of solving a puzzle:

Adrian Fisher (Standard British accent)

Yes, I mean the thing is, we have a maze and we all know about mazes: they have an entrance, and you have to get to the goal and come out. I mean, it gets terribly philosophical. If you go back 4,000 years... it’s only in the last 400 years that... we’ve had hedge mazes with puzzles. Until then, the first 3,600 years were labyrinths. They were just single-thread paths, usually laid out in rows of stones or boulders, or sometimes mosaic or sometimes in turf, in the landscape, on the ground, to be walked on. And the point was it was a kind of path of life, a single thread of time, from birth to death. You look at it all coiled up and you can’t work out how it could possibly work out, but if you actually put a procession along it, and you’ll notice that we all use every single path once and once only, to get from the beginning to the end. There’s no choices; you just have twists and turns. And the idea of choices only came in 400 years ago. 


FURTHER INFORMATION

For the latest news about Adrian Fisher’s maze designs and puzzles visit: www.adrianfisherdesign.com
You can also read his fascinating account of maze history and design: The Amazing Book of Mazes published by Thames and Hudson, £16.95


WHERE TO GET LOST - BRITAIN'S BEST MAZES

• Hampton Court Palace, London – Britain’s oldest surviving and most famous hedge maze:
www.hrp.org.uk/hamptoncourtpalace
• Hever Castle, Kent – wander the hedge maze or risk getting wet in the innovative Water Maze! www.hevercastle.co.uk
• Longleat, Wiltshire – nearly three kilometres of maze paths outdoors and a King Arthur-themed indoor mirror maze;
www.longleat.co.uk
• Symonds Yat West, Herefordshire – eccentric home of the Amazing Hedge Puzzle, Millennium Maze and unique Museum of Mazes; www.mazes.co.uk


MAZE MATHEMATICS

Mathematicians use critical path analysis (CPA) to find the best path through a maze. Computer programs known as autorouters use CPA for everything from urban planning to finding the cheapest transport routes. Autorouters have helped develop information technology and were first tested on… a map of Hampton Court Palace maze!


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Explains

Getting millions of people lost. Quando get è seguito dal participio passato, il significato è molto simile al passivo. Get quindi funge da ausiliare al posto del verbo essere. The vase got broken when we were moving house. Fisher has been responsible for getting millions of people lost. Il problema è che get e il verbo to be non sono intercambiabili. Non si può dire This house got built in the 17th century, e neanche My hotel room got cleaned while I was on the beach.
Normalmente si può usare get con il participio passato solo in due casi.
Il primo è quando si tratta di una cosa che facciamo a noi stessi, e quindi l’azione è riflessiva: to get married (sposarsi), to get dressed (vestirsi), to get confused (confondersi). Il secondo caso è quando le cose avvengono all’improvviso, inaspettatamente, o per sbaglio. He got attacked while he was walking home at night. The thief got John drunk and then stole his wallet (John non se l’aspettava).