Their first large scale installation since 1988, the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. tapped Danish architectural design firm BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group to create an enormous concavernous maze with 18-foot walls in their atrium. Aptly titled “The Big Maze,” the piece was inspired by ancient labyrinths, garden and hedge mazes of 17th and 18th-century Europe, and modern American corn mazes.
For many game designers, the first thing you build is a good maze. From Colossal Cave Adventure to Maniac Mansion to Wolfenstein to Dark Souls‘ Blightown, mazes have been a de facto way to allure and confuse players. And while it’s easy to build an impossible maze (just add complexity), creating a maze that both encourages people to continue while frustrating them enough to be a challenge is very, very difficult. As game designer Martin Neruka wrote, “The Maze is not a place of habitation for the visitor. He is a stranger and clearly not at home here.” Striking that balance of welcome and rejection is a tough line to walk.
But Bjarke Ingels wanted to invert that feeling of displacement: “The concept 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?”