Broad and flat landscapes give an expansive feel and can be experienced in a single glance from any spot. A garden must be visualised not as a two dimensional picture, but as a sculpture - a sculpture in three dimensions. In contrary, to create mystery in the landscape, a typical architectural frame is required.

A strong use of architecture can greatly add mystery to a lush, sensual look of the garden. Architectural elements such as hedges, fences and walls may be used in combination with paths to shape the experience of a vista with a focal point in a negative or positive space to instil drama into the landscape to energise it and bring it to life. An element of curiosity can be introduced for a visitor as he moves through the place. Design aspects can be such that they make him wonder as to what is in store ahead while negotiating the curves and paths of a garden. A well conceived frame work in landscape gives the place its signature and a feeling of seclusion and mystery.

In recent times to incorporate that element of mystery in landscape, the form of labyrinth is adopted by the landscape architects. The notable labyrinth form of landscape is located in the central garden of Getty Center at Los Angeles. The 1,34,000-square-foot Central Garden is the work of artist Robert Irwin.

Planning for the garden began in 1992, construction started in 1996, and the garden was completed in the year 1997. Irwin was quoted as saying that the Central Garden ‘is a sculpture in the form of a garden, which aims to be art’. A maze of azaleas floats in the pool, around which is a series of speciality gardens. More than 500 varieties of plant material are used for the Central Garden, but the selection is ‘always changing, never twice the same’. Labyrinth is a symbol known to exist for at least for 4,000 years. Thought to enhance right brain activity, different cultures and religions have used it as a representation for the journey of life. A hiatus for quite a long period later, the concept of labyrinth is back as a favourite these days and most of the contemporary labyrinths could be found set up in outdoor environment.

In Mahabharata, the labyrinth form called ‘Padmavyuha’ or ‘Chakravyuha’ was used to arrange the soldiers to trap the enemy in warfare. Abhimanyu, son of Arjuna who knew how to penetrate into such an arrangement was killed as he was unaware of the exit route. It has become a popular design element in landscaping throughout the world.

(The authors are architects and can be contacted at ‘’)