For someone like me who loves mazes, this is a cool thing. I remember back in 1983 when the 4th year architecture students at Kent State University built a big outdoor maze out of cardboard in the main plaza. I think they charged a minimal fee for people to go through the maze, and I remember going up into the library to look down on the maze to see it from above.
The BIG maze is planned to be about 60 feet by 60 feet (outside dimensions) with 18-foot-high walls along the perimeter. The walls will be made out of baltic birch plywood but instead of having everyone blindly find their way through the maze, the walls will taper down toward the center so that once you’re near the middle of the maze you will be able to see the path you need to take to complete it.
The maze is set to open in July, 2014 and will run until September 1, 2014, and is a preview for a Bjarke Ingels exhibit that will open in the Fall of 2014.There are many references to mazes and labyrinths throughout architectural history, like the Minoan Palace at Knossos, Crete (18th Century BC) I remember studying in college. Perhaps more well-known are the European hedge mazes built between the 16th and 18th centuries.
And here's a fun video review of landscape hedge mazes around the world, entitled "aMAZEd - Google Earth":
Mazes can create a sense of wonder and are sometimes used by architects as either a symbol or style. Some are found on facades of buildings, like these:
Al Rostamani Maze Tower by Planquadrat and DAR,in Dubai
Maze Apartments by CHT Architects in Richmond, Victoria, Australia
And if you’ve ever been in a glass maze at a carnival or amusement park, here is Phil Pauley’s concept design of what he calls the “Cubed Maze3”, a nine-level cube labyrinth with stairs and ramps with a rooftop café bar!
Video games are a great way to experience mazes. The original Pac-Man video game is based on a simple maze, which I think lent to a lot of the game’s appeal.
I remember when my brother first downloaded Wolfenstein 3D in the early 90’s. This was my first experience of being inside a virtual maze and, despite the violence, I found myself spending time just exploring the maze as opposed to trying to get to the end of each level as quickly as possible.
Wolfenstein led to Doom and Quake, even more violent games that have been accused of causing increased aggression in teens. I remember starting Doom and then stopping because of all of the shooting. Then, once I found the “invincibility cheat”, was able to go back in and explore the many levels and hidden passages.
I’ve also played a number of labyrinth-type games. My first when I was a kid was the wooden box kind with a steel marble. You used knobs to tilt the top “table” of the box to move the marble and avoid the holes.
There’s an iPhone version of this same game, Wooden Labyrinth 3D, which I enjoy playing every now and then.
In movies, the film “Labyrinth” is a fantasy starring David Bowie as the Goblin King and Jennifer Connelly as a girl who must traverse a series of mazes to reach a castle at the center of the labyrinth in order to save her little brother.
Perhaps the most iconic maze scene in a movie is the one at the end of “The Shining” starring Jack Nicholson. Jack takes a job as a caretaker for a hotel while it is closed for the winter and brings his wife and son, Danny, with him. There is an early scene in the lobby showing a model of the hotel’s hedge maze, foreshadowing the movie’s climax:
At the end of the movie, Jack has gone completely insane and believes he needs to kill his son. Danny runs away from his father and eventually escapes outside in the middle of a snowstorm and runs into the hotel’s hedge maze. Jack chases him into the maze but soon gets lost. Danny retraces his footsteps in the snow to find his way back to the hedge maze entrance:
Mazes will continue to inspire designers and fill people with wonder and joy. Maybe someone will try and solve Escher's "Relativity" through the 4th dimension!
From the submissions I’ve seen, this year’s entries covered a wide range of ideas, only some of which were able to successfully show a high-rise structural and architectural solution to the self-made problem statement.
Below are the 3 winners and some of the honorable mention recipients, along with some of my thoughts on each:
Vernacular Versatility Versatility – Yong Ju Lee (First Place)
I don’t know a lot about traditional Korean architecture, but applying computer modeling software to redesign ancient construction techniques is great. I thought it was a bit of a stretch to reference a standard square plan but then show a bending, curved structure, and I would have expected the final solution to have at least some symbolic roof elements to tie back to the traditional Korean house. However, the entry is carefully rendered and shows how the individual columns, beams and girders are assembled to form the entire structure. From all the entries, this may be the most realistic while also being a beautiful structure.
Car and Shell: or Marinetti’s Monster – Mark Talbot and Daniel Markiewicz (Second Place)
The suburban grid gone vertical! A fun solution (although completely unrealistic) but a nice commentary on suburban sprawl.
Propogate Skyscraper – YuHao Liu and Rui Wu (Third Place)
Interesting idea for a skyscraper to naturally expand using a patterned framework at its core. However, I think the innermost parts of the building would become un-useable once the material expanded outward.
I like the idea of using a solar-powered 3D printer to create the structure and this entry’s sustainable grand idea.
Climatology Tower - Yuan-Sung Hsiao, Yuko Ochiai, Jia-Wei Liu, Hung-Lin Hsieh (Honorable Mention)
A skyscraper that analyzes its surrounding urban environment is interesting, but I’m not sure how the outer skin could be constructed.
Rainforest Guardian Skyscraper - Jie Huang, Jin Wei, Qiaowan Tang, Yiwei Yu, Zhe Hao (Honorable Mention)
This is a similar entry of an environmentally-friendly skyscraper, this time in the Amazon Rainforest.
PieXus Tower - Chris Thackrey, Steven Ma, Bao An Nguyen Phuoc, Christos Koukis, Matus Nedecky, Stefan Turcovsky (Honorable Mention)
A beautiful, organic design, but has no relationship to the surrounding city and seems to rely only on automobile and helicopter traffic to get people in and out of the structure.
Project Blue - Yang Siqi, Zhan Beidi, Zhao Renbo, Zhang Tianshuo (Honorable Mention)
Another tower design that has a main purpose of energy efficiency and sustainability.
Urban Alloy Tower – Matt Bowles and Chad Kellogg (Honorable Mention)
Building around and above a city’s transportation spines considers a great use of unused space, although how it all gets supported in and around the roads and train tracks is questionable.
Skyvillage for Los Angeles – Ziwei Song (Honorable Mention)
Another entry the builds above transportation, this one with a more fantastic concept.
21st Century Neoclassical Skyscraper – John Houser and Parke MacDowell (Honorable Mention)
A new mannerism style using computer technologies to re-invent classical forms. I like the idea, but the solution looks like too many columns and arches, more like roman aqueducts piled on top of each other.
There are many more entries shown in the eVolo Skyscraper Competition 2014 website, as well as previous years’ competitions. I encourage everyone to explore the ideas and form your own opinions!