Your questions answered by Adrian Fisher, the world's leading maze designer

Originally published on December 02, 2016

Adrian Fisher is internationally renowned as the world’s leading maze designer, specialising in custom designed visitor attractions such as Mirror Mazes, Landscape Mazes, Panel Mazes, Dark Rides and Magic Mansions. We asked The Experience Economist readers for their questions for Adrian, and with his responses he shares a level of insight and foreward thinking that comes from decades of top level expertise.

How did you get started creating mazes?

I built my first hedge maze in my parents’ garden on the banks of the River Stour in Dorset, southern England. My wife and co-director Marie live 20 miles upstream on the same river, again with a garden containing a hedge maze and folly tower. From that first maze, one commission led to another, including one for Lady Brunner and dedicated by Dr Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury, at her National Trust property Greys Court in Oxfordshire. Over the past 37 years we have pioneered the world’s first modern mirror maze in 1991 (and 49 since), the world’s first corn maze in 1993 (and 450 since), 42 hedge mazes, and paving and mosaic mazes.

What are the most unique things about designing mazes compared to other spatial designers and architects?

The story-driven kind of mazes we design have more in common with the worlds of film, theatre, music and entertainment, than the functional objectives of load-bearing construction. Everyone is the hero of their own adventure, and all ages can join in the fun together. Creating a maze is like making the largest imaginable work of art in the landscape. There are obvious practical considerations, whether horticultural, structural or technical. Many of our mazes tell a story, so that visitors have the double pleasure of solving the puzzle, and also discovering its hidden meanings.  In a way, you can judge a maze like ice skating – partly on artistic impression, and partly on technical merit.  

With today’s possibilities in VR, why do real-life mazes?

In one sense, physical mazes with human interaction, motivation, morale and emotion will always remain popular.  There are three factors that help produce a really popular maze visit. Firstly, doing things together as a family, group or team, and bonding as a shared experience. Secondly, making choices and acting together on the collective decision. And thirdly, coming across things we never imagined or expected to discover. But in another sense, VR opens up wonderful new worlds to explore, that defy the conventional laws of physics or the bounds of public safety.  Imagine a maze which is not two-dimensional, nor just with occasional bridges as cross-overs, but a completely three-dimensional network of staircases, towers, bridges, and sloped walking areas.  And then one-way routes, and surprising hidden chambers. It’s a far cry from the traditional hedge maze on the lawn of a chateau!     

Are there any differences to take into consideration when doing mazes in different parts of the world, or does the same principles work anywhere?

The wide range of cultures around the world is one of the great joys of my livelihood. I relish the opportunities to respond to the social diversity I come across in each project. Together with the climatic and horticultural challenges of different locations and the character of the owners, in effect every custom design turns out unique. We are 90% export, and doing a lot of our work in the Middle East and Far East at the moment, where the leisure industry is less developed than in North America.  

What is the future of maze design?

We are living through years of unprecedented electronic innovation, and rapidly changing social tastes and expectations. We have a “virtual design team”. Our designers, artists and illustrators work in locations across southern England, Spain and Thailand, with frequent internet document exchange and conference calls by Skype. The latest innovation is our Magic Mansion Mysteries, which is a high capacity ultra-fascinating environment of multiple Escape Rooms; the first one opens in the Middle East in 2017.  By combining the latest technology with the pleasure of visitors sharing their time with friends and loved ones in a puzzling setting, the future for innovative maze design is bright indeed.

Please go to http://mazemaker.co.uk to visit the Adrian Fisher Design website to see some of his amazing work.