Labyrinths in Places

Labyrinths are found in many places. Some are permanent and some are brought in temporarily for events. The challenge for labyrinth enthusiasts is often how to get permission to introduce a labyrinth into a specific environment. This section of the website examines some of the places where labyrinths may be found, the benefits of having them there, how they are used, and how people were able to install them there in the first place!

03. Other Considerations

The Labyrinth Setting
Labyrinths are contemplative tools for reflection and introspection that need to be in a serene, natural environment to be effective. The walker needs a feeling of peace and tranquility, as well as a sense of safety and refuge. There should be few distractions so that the surroundings do not detract from the labyrinth experience. Since the walker is reflecting and not completely aware of their surroundings, they should not be too isolated from others or out of view. They should be away from heavy traffic and active/noisy sports, but should not be isolated since safety is an issue. 

Other important elements include:

  • Benches or other seating to allow for reflection and journaling
  • Soft lighting for evening community walks
  • Signage directing people to the site and instructing people how to use it
  • Landscaping to enhance the experience
  • Covered space with seating nearby for groups to discuss the intent of the walk, walk, then discuss
  • Shade

If the space includes a sculpture garden, the art should not interfere with the contemplative experience. The walker needs to relate to the art and feel nurtured and supported. The benches could have a distinctive design associated with all the labyrinths and other contemplative spaces. The TKF Foundation, which funded labyrinths and serene environments in Maryland, found distinctive benches with waterproof journals to be an effective strategy. They report that “The journal has been an amazing addition to the spaces. It provides visitors the opportunity to connect with earlier visitors and to share their thoughts. It has also been a cathartic tool for those who simply need to unload their burdens by writing them down. Because people tend to focus on things that are central to their lives, the journal entries can be powerful and moving writings.”

Indoor or Covered Labyrinth
An indoor labyrinth or one covered by a pavilion allows people to walk in cold or rainy weather and provides safety in the evening, more accessibility to those handicapped, and potentially rental income. An indoor facility can be designated by the community and rented for use by groups for workshops, retreats, or weddings.

Robert Ferré discusses some of the considerations in his booklet, Planning for Labyrinths: Design Considerations and Guidelines for Architects and Building Committees. [While this booklet focuses on hospital and church installations, much of it equally applies to parks.

Types of Installations
Labyrinth installations can be simple or elaborate, inexpensive or $100,000 installations. Inexpensive installations often require more maintenance, so planning is critical. Options include:

  • Grass with brick or stepping stones (the path or the lines can be grass)
  • Mowed pattern in grass (turf labyrinths) with the paths gradually receding
  • Paint on concrete
  • Incised concrete
  • Pavers or stone

Labyrinth Builders
Some of the simpler installations can be done with volunteers advising park staff or contractors. But if the park selects one of the more involved, expensive installations using concrete, pavers, or stone, we recommend using an experienced labyrinth builder.

Funding and Community Partnerships
Community labyrinths can be funded through partnerships with organizations seeking ways to make the public more aware of community issues and encourage community participation in the creation of the labyrinth. A labyrinth could be a memorial to peace, veterans, tolerance, cancer survivors, or victims of violence where individuals “buy a brick.” The Columbine Peace Labyrinth in Littleton, Colorado, is an example of a memorial labyrinth.

Labyrinth installations can also be an art project. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has funded labyrinths as design arts projects where artists, landscape architects, and the community collaborate to create an environment.

Labyrinths and Tourism
Labyrinths can be an exciting part of a trail of contemplative spaces linking public gardens and other sites and promoted by the Convention and Visitors Bureau.