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Go on, get lost in Science Centre Singapore’s new mirror maze

Step into Science Centre Singapore's new mirror maze, which is filled with optical illusions and interactive elements

The newest attraction at Science Centre Singapore wants visitors to get lost - literally.

Called Professor Crackitt's Light Fantastic, it is a mirror maze that is touted as the largest to show in Asia.

Inside it, optical illusions will confuse and delight visitors. These include darkened interiors, dead ends and mirrors showing infinite reflections at every turn .

Spread across 270 sq m, the maze also has interactive exhibits within it such as a bottomless "black hole" created with mirrors and a kaleidoscope. The exhibition aims to teach visitors about the physics of light, colour and reflection.

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The maze was designed by British maze designer Adrian Fisher for the science centre's 40th anniversary celebrations. Next to the maze is another new exhibition called The Mind's Eye, which explores illusion and human perception. Both shows opened on Wednesday.

Speaking to The Straits Times when he was in Singapore for the launch of the maze this week, Mr Fisher says he hopes people will experience the "happiness to be allowed to feel lost" for a while in his tricky creation.

The 65-year-old, who runs his eponymous maze design studio from Dorset, England, has been in the business for almost four decades.

Professor Crackitt's Light Fantastic maze exhibition (above) spreads over 270 sq m of space filled with mirrors and kaleidoscopic displays (left).
Professor Crackitt's Light Fantastic maze exhibition (above) spreads over 270 sq m of space filled with mirrors and kaleidoscopic displays. ST PHOTOS: MARK CHEONG

  • VIEW IT / PROFESSOR CRACKITT'S LIGHT FANTASTIC MIRROR MAZE


    WHERE: Hall A, Science Centre Singapore, 15 Science Centre Road

    WHEN: 10am to 6pm daily

    ADMISSION: Free, entrance fee to Science Centre Singapore applies

    INFO: www.science.edu.sg

He has created more than 700 mazes around the world. He does them in various styles such as hedge mazes, water mazes and maize mazes, and pioneered the Path-In-Grass genre, featuring a labyrinth with curvy stone paths flanked by grass.

He says his labyrinths are never meant to overwhelm or defeat participants.

"The trick (to designing a maze) is to make sure that participants don't sink into despair or panic when they think they can't get out," he says.

"It's not about humiliating the players. It's like a game of chess where I play all my moves in advance by creating various routes with these turns and corners.

"Then I stand back, watch them go and let them 'win' before they've had enough. It shouldn't be an ordeal to get through a maze."

With a wry smile, he says that it is usually adults who freak out when they cannot find their way out.

His tip to grown-up mazegoers: think like children.

"Play is the life's work of children. They try and explore ways to do something until a pattern emerges. This works much better than a sensible adult who dictates going a specific way. That's just tedious... and kills every bit of excitement."

The mirror maze is his first completed project in Singapore. By 2019, he will have another two - a mirror maze and a hedge maze - which are part of Jewel Changi Airport, a 10-storey development in front of Terminal 1.

His experience watching people negotiate his mazes has taught him that it is more than just solving a puzzle. Mazes can bring participants together as they work as a team to figure out how to find the exit.

Mr Fisher, who has six children and six grandchildren, says: "When a group gets inside a maze, it has to stick by the choices it makes and stay together.

"That has quite a powerful effect and is actually the real reason people enjoy the adventure so much. I'm just planting a situation and standing back."

He has become so good at it that he has set seven Guinness World Records with his creations.

Professor Crackitt's Light Fantastic maze exhibition (above) spreads over 270 sq m of space filled with mirrors and kaleidoscopic displays (left).
Professor Crackitt's Light Fantastic maze exhibition spreads over 270 sq m of space filled with mirrors and kaleidoscopic displays (above). ST PHOTOS: MARK CHEONG

Earlier this year, he picked up one for designing the world's largest hedge maze in Ningbo, China. Called The Maze Of The Butterfly Lovers, it covers an area of 33,565 sq m.

Before he made maze-making his business, the hobbyist often designed mazes for fun and completed two or three mazes a year. He was also contributing puzzles to newspapers and magazines.

While holding down a full-time job in management consultancy, Mr Fisher co-founded Minotaur Designs in 1979 with the late Mr Randoll Coate, a former diplomat known for his playful and intricate mazes.

In 1984, Mr Fisher quit his job to design mazes full-time and struck out on his own two years later.

He compares designing a good maze to crafting an ice-skating routine.

"It's partly about technical merit and partly artistic impression," he says. "If you let one dominate, it detracts from the other. It's all about balance."


Other mazes by Adrian Fisher


PHOTOS: ADRIAN FISHER, ADRIAN FISHER DESIGN, BEATLES’ MAZE, GETTY IMAGES

The Maze Of The Butterfly Lovers, Ningbo, China

This maze (above) broke not one, but two, world records. The two-month-old maze in one of China's oldest cities is the largest hedge maze in the world.

Covering 33,565 sq m, it is about the size of four football fields. It also has 8,375m of pathways, making it the longest for a hedge maze.

Inspired by the famous Chinese legend of a tragic romance between a rich woman and a scholar, the maze has the shape of two butterflies carved into it.

Inside, paths criss-cross and weave under one another, while towers and bridges are thrown in the mix. In the centre of the maze is a central tower with twin spiral staircases. Maze runners can head up to see how they can plot their way out.


Al Rostamani Maze Tower, Dubai

With a vertical maze (above) running down the facade of this 210m-tall skyscraper, this design stands out among Dubai's crowded skyline.

Located in Sheikh Zayed Road, the 57-storey mixed-used complex holds a Guinness World Record for being the largest vertical maze in the world.

The stone facade is not purely ornamental. The maze is a series of interconnected balconies for the residential units and offices in the building.

At night, coloured LED lights illuminate the building, while an 8m-wide circular video wall called Maze Eye at the top of the building displays images.


Beatles-themed Maze, Liverpool

When designing a maze for the 1984 International Garden Festival in Liverpool, Mr Fisher looked to the English city's best export: The Beatles and their hit song Yellow Submarine.

The result was a water maze (above) shaped like an apple, where visitors manoeuvre around raised pathways surrounded by water channels. There were also stepping stones in the shapes of musical notes. In the centre of the labyrinth sat a 15m-long yellow submarine.

The maze installation drew a million visitors in the six months that the festival was open.

Mr Fisher designed the maze with his then-business partner, Mr Randoll Coate, when they ran Minotaur Designs.


Fisher's Own Home Maze

What is a maze designer without his own maze?

About a decade ago, Mr Fisher installed a circular maze (above) in the garden of his 1830s English manor house in the Dorset countryside in south-west England. His design studio is just a stone's throw away.

The maze circuit is lined with hedges made with yew, a slow-growing evergreen plant.

Its centrepiece is a 5m-high octagonal tower with a Tudor-style door. Visitors climb up a 19th-century wrought-iron staircase that Mr Fisher salvaged to get an aerial view of the maze.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2017, with the headline 'Go on, get lost'. Print Edition | Subscribe