It takes 1 second to get in and at least 2 hours to find your way out of the world's largest bamboo maze. The Labirinto della Masone officially opened on June 1, 2015 in Fontanellato, near Parma, Italy. It is not easy to navigate. There are very few reference points and all of the hedges look the same with corridors that are nearly 10-feet-wide and 10-feet-long. Created by 78-year-old Italian graphic designer, art publisher and collector Franco Maria Ricci, the Labyrinth is eight hectares in sum and a lot of fun. Learn more about this unique experience after the jump.
The overall length of the tangled paths is about 1.8 miles. And the maze’s endless green fences are comprised of nothing but a lush bamboo plantation. More precisely, over thirty species of bamboo were used to grow this spectacular, but confusing geometric wall pattern.
Why bamboo? Inspired by writings of Jorge Luis Borges and Italo Calvino, Franco Maria Ricci decided in 2004 to build a labyrinth. At that time he was already 67, an age when one starts to pay attention to time in a new way. As Ricci says, if he had done his Labyrinth in the classic boxwood style, he would have to wait 20 years to see it completed. Fast-growing bamboo, instead, offered a quick solution for his idea.
Ricci proceeded to import and grow thousands of bamboo trees of different varieties over the next several years until they acclimatized to northeastern Italy’s environment and became integrated with the local landscape. It took about 10 years to complete the preparation of one of his most ambitious works of art.
In addition to the endless green maze, the Labirinto della Masone complex offers visitors over 50,000 square feet of cultural spaces. The Labyrinth features several brick buildings, including a museum hosting Ricci’s permanent private collection of about 500 works of art dating from the sixteenth to the twentieth century and a library dedicated to the most famous examples of typography and Italian graphics.
The middle section, surrounded by an expansive portico, is made up of a 22,000 square foot central piazza designed for open-air concerts, events, art installations and exhibitions. Finally, the terminal part comprises an evocative pyramid housing a chapel, an unusual fixture for a catholic sanctuary.
The peculiar aspect of the overall architectural ensemble of Labirinto della Masone is its layout. Resembling the utopian ideal city dating back to the Italian Renaissance era, the Labyrinth is Ricci’s private symbolic star-like fort suddenly cropping up somewhere in the middle of the Po Valley and surrounded by endless agricultural fields.
Indeed, for Ricci his private Labyrinth is a wonder-wander-ground. It is a mirror of our daily life, a miniature of the troubled and puzzled experience we all live in. And yet, at the same time, it offers a pleasant game of getting lost and finally (hopefully) finding ourselves out.