From a trash incinerator that pulls double duty as a ski resort to a tetrahedron-shaped skyscraper-courtyard hybrid to a park-topped ‘protective ribbon” that hugs Lower Manhattan, the work of dashing — and maybe crazy — Danish architect Bjarke Ingels is without fail brave, bewildering, and just a bit bananas.
Given Ingels’ penchant for the audacious, the disorienting, and the fun, it’s only appropriate that the architect's namesake firm, Bjarke Ingels Group — or BIG, as the cool kids call it — has taken to mystifying the masses with a large-scale indoor labyrinth erected within the West Court of the magnificent Great Hall at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. For those who want to really, truly lose themselves within the work of modern architecture’s nuttiest — and perhaps most sustainability-minded — maverick, now’s your chance: the 3,600-square-foot maze complete with formidable 18-foot-tall maple plywood walls that descend in height as you travel deeper and deeper into the labyrinth is now open to the public until Sept 1.
Inspired by ancient labyrinths, traditional European hedge mazes, and that spooky Halloween-time staple known as the corn maze, the maple-plywood BIG Maze is very much its own unique creature although the concept, as Ingels explains, is simple: … “as you travel deeper into a maze, your path typically becomes more convoluted. What if we invert this scenario and create a maze that brings clarity and visual understanding upon reaching the heart of the labyrinth?"
It's worth noting that Ingels' native Denmark is a country that takes labyrinth design seriously. Real seriously.
Perhaps the most entertaining aspect of the BIG Maze is that visitors, prior to or after experiencing the labyrinth themselves, can enjoy an aerial view of its crazy-making interior — and the befuddled souls lumbering through its corridors whilst experiencing low-grade anxiety attacks — from the museum’s second and third floor balconies.
It takes, on average, 40 minutes for visitors to travel to the center of the maze — and back out again. It's a totally interactive and kid-friendly installation although younger museum patrons may want an adult's hand to hold on to while moving through the maze.
The BIG Maze is being exhibited as part of the National Building Museum’s Summer Block Party programming which also includes screenings of Jim Henson’s classic “Labyrinth” (long live the Goblin King!) and other non-maze-related special events. A full exhibition of BIG’s work, titled amBIGuity, will be held at the museum in early 2015.
Cathy Frankel, vice president for exhibitions and collections at the National Building Museum, explains to the Washington Post that the maze was erected both to drum up interest in the upcoming BIG exhibit and to encourage summertime museum visitors to think about the built environment in a way that they might have not considered it before: “People are scared of museums sometimes, and this is a way to bring something familiar in a friendly way, and start getting at what we’re doing little by little. People aren’t going to walk out [of the maze] understanding architecture or engineering, but at least they’ll be thinking about it in new way.”
Frankel also makes it clear that the maze will be checked for really lost visitors at the end of each day before the museum closes.
The National Building Museum is distributing tickets for the BIG Maze on a first-come, first-serve basis; tickets also include admission to other current museum exhibitions. Although it's unclear if food and drink is allowed within the labyrinth, bringing along a water bottle and a small baggie of breadcrumbs — just in case — might not be such a bad idea.
Head on over to the museum’s website for more details including operating hours and admission prices.
Via [Dezeen], [Washington Post]
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