Inspired by local history and astronomy and using local materials, the 1200sqm labyrinth in Tumut is based on the Reims Cathedral labyrinth in France, and was designed by Hector Abrahams Architects (HAA) as a place of meditation, contemplation and recreation.
The labyrinth also has another function-as a new community focal point for observing Armistice Day, which corresponds with the 11th hour on the 11th day on the 11th month, and marks the official end of World War 1.
The name ‘Tumut’ is drawn from the local Indigenous word ‘doomut’, meaning ‘quiet resting place by the river’, and according to Hector Abrahams, “unlike mazes, which are designed to confuse or challenge, a labyrinth aims for tranquillity with a very clear path, and a calming, restorative environment.”
“This is the most accessible labyrinth in Australia in terms of location, turns and width, and materials and surfaces,” says Abrahams.
The octagon-shaped space follows the traditional pattern of labyrinths, while at the centre there are inlaid local stones to mirror the position of the eight planets as they appeared in the southern sky on the First World War Armistice, November 1918, thereby connecting the labyrinth to this historical moment in world history.
Several artefacts of what was once known as the Great War and that ended almost exactly 99 years ago are also embedded in the labyrinth, including soil from Hill 60 Belgium, where a significant 1917 battle involved Australians serving on the Western Front, Lone Pine cuttings from Gallipoli, and a soldier’s letter and photo to his mother from the Western Front, as well as local mementos including a horseshoe and a dog collar acknowledging the role animals played in the war.
According to commemorative specialist Darren Mitchell, the Tumut Labyrinth encourages inclusiveness and “celebrates the community service of its citizens in times of peace and conflict”.
“The site-specific design, its materials and most significantly, accessibility, make it a special place for future generations,” says Mitchell.
“There is an increasing awareness of the therapeutic benefits of these structures. And being included on the International Register of Labyrinths will attract tourists to the local area,” says Abrahams.