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Maze designer Adrian Fisher

PUBLISHED: 12:08 04 August 2015 | UPDATED: 12:08 04 August 2015

Adrian Fisher inside the mirror maze contained within the tower in his garden

Adrian Fisher inside the mirror maze contained within the tower in his garden

(C)2008 Peter Booton Photography, all rights reserved

From hedge to maize and water to mirror, award-winning designer Adrian Fisher has created over 700 mazes around the world, including one in a Gothic tower set within his garden at Durweston

Adrian's hedge maze with central tower containing a mirror maze within at his Dorset homeAdrian's hedge maze with central tower containing a mirror maze within at his Dorset home

Adrian Fisher and his team lead the world in maze design. To date, they have created more than 700 mazes of every description in 32 countries and set seven world records. Their unique designs can be found at castles and historic houses, such as Blenheim Palace and Leeds Castle, as well as theme parks and several French chateaux. His company, Adrian Fisher Design, is based at Durweston, near Blandford Forum, where Adrian lives in a Georgian lodge with his wife and business partner, Marie.

Dorset born Adrian built his first maze in 1975, for his father, a Bournemouth doctor. So how did that lead to Adrian becoming the world authority in maze design? “It certainly wasn’t a career choice at that time,” he admits. “When I started out self-employed 35 years ago my family thought it was an appallingly risky thing to do. But how else can you travel the world encountering different cultures and work as an artist alongside musicians, painters and sculptors on an international canvas?”

Adrian goes onto explain that mazes come in many different forms - ranging from traditional hedge mazes and mirror mazes to water mazes and maize mazes. There are also panel mazes, paving mazes, art mazes and even Dark Ride mazes. Adrian has been involved with every type, and pioneered new developments in maze design. In 1993 he designed the world’s first maize maze at Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania. It covered an area of 126,000sq-ft and was 500 feet long. Three years later he set a new world record with the 263,790sq-ft ‘Quadricycle’ Amazing Maize Maze at Dearborn, Michigan.

One of the Adrian Fisher Design team’s most spectacular mazes is to be found on a skyscraper in Dubai. Built onto the walls and roof of the 700 foot high building, the Maze Tower was built for a local sheikh and bears Adrian’s signature. “Only Spiderman could solve the puzzle on that Dubai skyscaper,” he chuckles.

Mazes of a more modest nature, created nearer home, include the Alice in Wonderland hedge maze at Adventure Wonderland, near Christchurch and King Arthur’s Mirror Maze at Longleat.

The hedge maze at Leeds Castle Kent with grotto in the centre {team with pic of grotto]The hedge maze at Leeds Castle Kent with grotto in the centre {team with pic of grotto]

Adrian claims to have created the first definitive modern mirror maze in 1991. Since then he has built a further 46 mirror mazes in 12 countries, and the design has evolved along the way. The current MK7 version Adrian describes as “spectacularly dramatic with more vibrant sound, colour and movement.” He has even installed a mirror maze in his own Dorset garden. Housed in an octagonal tower with a Gothic style entrance, it forms the centrepiece of a small, traditional hedge maze. Inside a steel spiral staircase encircled by mirrors leads to the castellated roof from which there are splendid views of the surrounding countryside.

In common with many of Adrian’s hedge maze designs, his own incorporates a number of maze gates that can be opened or closed as required to vary passage through the maze. “I thought it would be fun to have a maze that would be more difficult to solve every time you came back,” he explains. “If you have, say, a dozen gates in concert, you’ve created a beastly puzzle for Monday. Then, if you move some of them to different positions for Tuesday, you’ve created another really beastly puzzle. If you come back on Wednesday you think it will be easy because you’ve been before. But no, ‘this is blocked off now and there’s a gap I don’t remember. I’m getting muddled and now I’m completely lost!’ So the maze has become more difficult on day three than it was on day one,” he laughs.

Maze gates are just one of many interesting features alongside towers, grottoes and special effects that have found their way into modern maze design. Add bridges and you have a 3D maze. Adrian estimates that around 75-80% of the cost of a modern maze is spent on features of this nature, whereas at one time most of the expense would have been paths and bushes. “The total effect is designed to be a thrilling adventure from moment to moment. People get excited about going to a maze and by getting families to experience a maze together, rather than scattering in all directions, it becomes more of a family adventure,” says Adrian, who firmly believes that mazes play an important role in helping families to have a great day out together.

“Mazes don’t have to be overwhelming. The fun is going in and solving the puzzle. You don’t need bigger and bigger puzzles. It’s the quality of the experience that matters, not the scale.”

Adrian invariably starts a new maze design on paper and then conveys his ideas to a client in words before involving computer programmes. “I can paint a vibrant picture of what they’re going to get in words,” he adds. “What it is going to look like is almost downstream. By the time you’ve talked about it and got the concept right it’s not so much knowing the right answers as asking the right questions.”

The Maze Tower in Dubai - one for Spiderman to solveThe Maze Tower in Dubai - one for Spiderman to solve

When it comes to hedge mazes, Adrian recommends planting with yew, beech and hornbeam. “Box is good too, but too slow growing and holly should be avoided for obvious reasons. However you don’t get any cheating with a holly hedge!”

The advantage of yew, beech and hornbeam, is that they grow fairly slowly and only need clipping annually. On occasion, Adrian and his team choose a hedge material to suit the location, such as at Scone Palace in Scotland where green beech and copper beech were planted at right angles to each other in order to create a tartan effect.

Of all the many mazes he has been involved with, the most amusing, Adrian recalls, was the Beatles Maze at the Liverpool Garden Festival in 1984. Laid out in the shape of a gigantic apple, the meandering paths above a pool of water eventually led to a large yellow submarine at the centre. The submarine, weighing 18 tons and 51 feet in length, had to be negotiated within before exiting and returning to the maze.

During his long career as a designer Adrian has also been involved in a number of unusual projects which have drawn on his skills as a maze creator. These include suggested improvements for a new London Transport bus map as well as being awarded two gold medals for garden landscape design. But creating mazes is clearly his first love and something he enjoys immensely. “I’m a very fortunate person because I do something lovely for the betterment of mankind,” enthuses Adrian.

The underground grotto at the centre of the Leeds Castle mazeThe underground grotto at the centre of the Leeds Castle maze

For further information about Adrian’s mazes visit adrianfisherdesign.com

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