Maps, Mazes, and Cartography

Like a good maze, the connection between mazes and cartography might not be self-evident on first glance but from then on it seems obvious.  A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “This Is Amazing: Maker of Puzzle Finds Few Wanting to Try It: Creating the Largest Hand-Drawn Maze Presents Challenges; Dead Ends, Pancakes” by John Miller interviews Joe Wos, Director of the ToonSeum, a Pittsburgh cartoon museum, and creator of the world’s largest hand drawn maze – almost. It can’t be made official until someone actually solves it.

One person who declined the challenge is maze expert Adrian Fisher, the world’s leading maze designer, 600 mazes (43 of them mirror mazes) in 30 countries, and holistic city planner. He applies his spatial skills to physical mazes, labyrinths, landscape design, town planning and development, transport map concepts, and inventions such as the Mitre Tiling system and the 7-sided Fisher Paver system. According to the website, MirrorMaze, some of his designs are large enough to be seen on Google Earth.

In her book, Wanderlust: A History of Walking, landscape author Rebecca Solnit writes that ““A labyrinth is a symbolic journey or a map of the route to salvation, but it is a map we can really walk on, blurring the difference between map and world.” However, functionally, a maze and a map both give a bird’s eye view of the world and involve similar geographic ideas.  Dr. Joseph J. Kerski, USGS takes this concept further in his article, “Corn Mazes are Maps” for  the Fall 2011 Connecticut Geospatial Newsletter. He believes that corn mazes allows people to experience scale, relative and absolute location, land use, and other foundations of geography. In fact, the USGS published a 2012 handout on ” Ten Lessons for Teaching Geography Using Corn Mazes“.

A geographer might never look at their local corn maze, garden maze, or contemplation labyrinth the same after realizing the spatial connections between a maze and a map.