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!

6. Case Study 2: Building a Labyrinth at the University of Kent

The idea of a permanent labyrinth at the University was first raised by members of the new Labyrinth Group. This seemed a dream for the distant future, but support for the idea grew rapidly. There were some key points that particularly helped in building support, at different levels within the University. The most significant of these were probably as follows (recognising that people with different roles within the University might list these differently).

  • Aesthetics. The labyrinth is a notable enhancement to the landscape – and the university environment.
  • Authority. The proposal went through appropriate formal channels and was supported by very senior colleagues.
  • Collaboration. The initiative has drawn together colleagues from very different sections of the University, and this breadth of support has been a critical factor.
  • Community. The new labyrinth has the potential to make a significant contribution to relationships between the City and the University.
  • Creativity. Kent rightly prides itself on being a creative university, and this is certainly a creative initiative.
  • Expertise. When we began to explore the idea – very tentatively – we found a highly respected team, ready to hand. Jeff Saward (researcher and designer) and Andrew Wiggins (Director of Haywood Landscapes) were developing a labyrinth for a local hospice and were available for a new project.
  • Incentive. Senior (and other) colleagues very much wanted to have the labyrinth ready in time for a specific conference at the University, one of the largest conferences in the UK. This desire for speed was valuable in accelerating the internal, practical measures and the decisions needed, once the go-ahead had been given in principle.
  • Innovation. I have not yet found another university which has built a labyrinth specifically to support teaching and learning across the institution. Universities like to be innovative! The prospect of a possible ‘first’ gave significant impetus.
  • Ownership. It was crucial, with this initiative, that a well-established team within the University was committed and enthusiastic. At Kent, this was the University’s Unit for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching, where the Labyrinth Project is based. The project was then drawn into the newly evolving Creative Campus initiative, a natural home for it.
  • Serendipity. See ‘Expertise’.
  • Timeliness. The labyrinth provides a quiet time and space for reflection, much needed in a university life that feels increasingly pressured. There is a sense of the labyrinth being needed in this respect.
  • Universality. The labyrinth, with a history going back at least 3,500 years and a presence in many faith and cultural traditions, is truly a resource for the whole community – particularly important in a diverse, contemporary and secular university.
  • ‘Rightness’. It’s hard to define this, but it seems right to say that the support for the initiative has been overwhelming. People at all levels in the university came to feel that this was a good and achievable idea: something that was right for this university.