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!

2. Bringing a Labyrinth to a University

If you are interested in bringing a labyrinth into a university setting, you’ll need to find ways in which your own work, experience and expertise make a connection with a particular academic discipline, or another function within the University. Your starting point will depend on whether you are already working, or studying, within a university or an organisation connected to Higher Education, or are coming in from outside the institution. Because universities are often very large, you may find interest in one corner – and complete lack of interest in another.

Look for common ground and for tangential connections which may prove to be useful. In addition to academic departments, schools or sections, think about links with different teams (names will vary):

  • Arts initiatives
  • Careers and other guidance teams
  • Chaplaincy – inter-faith or single faith
  • Counselling and Wellbeing Services
  • Health and Medical Centres
  • Grounds, environment, garden and arboretum teams
  • Personnel Department
  • Recruitment (of students) and Widening Participation initiatives
  • Personal, Professional and Staff Development
  • Students' Union and Student Societies
  • Student volunteer and other service initiatives
  • Teaching and learning development
  • Alumni associations.

The more relevant and focused your proposal, the more likely you are to find someone who wants to listen. It may help to offer a one-off trial event to gauge interest. Sometimes the simplest solutions can be best, as in a classical labyrinth pattern taped or drawn onto the ground. See 'What kind of labyrinth' (next webpage in this section) for possibilities.

Space is likely to be a practical issue, especially when trying to lay out a canvas labyrinth. It’s advisable not to take other people’s word for room measurements; try to measure it yourself, perhaps with a friend to be on the safe side. You may need to be flexible and imaginative about the space offered. For example, with a one-off opportunity to lead a labyrinth walk for a group of students and staff, the only venue available was an underground gymnasium in the university Sports Centre, where we laid out a portable canvas labyrinth. The key question was: what view would confront participants as they stood at the labyrinth entrance? A basket-ball hoop? A fire escape sign? A blank wall? We opted for a plain corner to give a sense of distance, to minimise distractions and to avoid forcing metaphors of goals and exits onto the participants.

Case Study 1

The Long View: Introducing a Labyrinth for Transformative Learning

At the University of Central Oklahoma (Edmond, Oklahoma, USA), Dr. Diane Rudebock had a passion for introducing the labyrinth to students, faculty and staff as part of the health and wellness tenets of the University's Transformative Learning. She led a team of researchers on campus to begin to explore research projects involving the labyrinth. They first used canvas labyrinths and then painted a labyrinth on the grass. Several pilot research projects were completed, and as a result, there was a strong interest in having a permanent labyrinth on campus. With the assistance of a graduate student, Dr. Rudebock submitted a successful proposal which led to the creation of a permanent labyrinth on the University of Central Oklahoma's campus. 

The labyrinth is located in a central position on campus adjacent to the university chapel and was dedicated September 6, 2013. The 11 circuit medieval design was created by Marty Kermeen, the brick paver artist at Labyrinths in Stone.  This is the first labyrinth at a public university in the state of Oklahoma.

The University's Center for Excellence in Transformative Teaching and Learning website contains information and resources about the campus labyrinth including a video made by UCO students, and suggestions for discipline specific uses.

The labyrinth provided early opportunities for student and staff development including presentations on research and on innovative practice at The Labyrinth Society's Annual Gatherings, at conferences on transformative learning, and at discipline-specific conferences. In-house lectures and a book group have helped to build interest. In 2018 the University hosted labyrinth facilitator training with the facilitator training organisation Veriditas, the first university in the USA to do so.

Case Study 2

The Short Term: Creating a temporary labyrinth for a conference

At the University of Kent’s Canterbury (England) campus, during the summer vacation, a temporary labyrinth was set up on the edge of a University playing field, with a view of open countryside. It was hand-painted with surveyor’s paint on grass, with the permission of the Estates Department. This labyrinth was created for a one-off event as part of a conference, and had to be located close to the conference venue. We hoped for good weather, as there was no nearby indoor room large enough as an alternative.

The process from beginning to end was along these lines:

  • Request from conference organizers; meeting of labyrinth facilitator team to discuss possibilities
  • Negotiating and agreeing exactly what was needed, and who would be responsible for what; agreeing a budget
  • Finding a location; obtaining permission to create a temporary labyrinth at that location
  • Obtaining support and advice from the Grounds maintenance team within the Estates Department; obtaining the right sort of paint
  • Planning and publicising the event
  • Planning the position, design and orientation of the labyrinth (towards the best view)
  • Creating the labyrinth
  • Organizing access and directions, gates to be unlocked and signs in place, in liaison with conference organisers
  • Facilitating the event
  • Evaluation of event.

This process involved a series of meetings with various combinations of Estates staff, labyrinth facilitators and event coordinators. We worked to build knowledge and understanding between all the interested parties of what the labyrinth is; how it can be used and maintained in these circumstances; and what permission is required, from whom, and when. Though only one event was anticipated, the painted labyrinth was used for two more events that summer, as well as by individual walkers. The labyrinth was effectively 'adopted' by the University Counselling Service, located nearby, and was maintained by the Grounds team for several years until the site was needed for student housing.

What would we do differently, next time?

  • Get a stack of plastic chairs for those who need a seat.
  • Borrow a temporary marquee for facilitators who are out in the sun or rain all afternoon.
  • Be more relaxed about the fact that sometimes, there really is no indoor space available as a back-up plan.
  • Avoid painting the labyrinth on a windy day. It wastes a lot of paint!

Prepared for the Labyrinth Society by Jan Sellers, lead editor of Learning with the Labyrinth (2016). Web pages revised 2018 by Jan Sellers, Jodi Lorimer, and Diane Rudebock. Visit Jan Sellers' website for more information.