Gijs Van Vaerenbergh creates Labyrinth steel maze in Belgium

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Gijs Van Vaerenbergh's steel maze features spherical, cylindrical and cone-shaped voids

A kilometre of steel corridors are wound within this industrial-looking maze at a former coal mine by Belgian studio Gijs Van Vaerenbergh (+ slideshow).

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The Labyrinth is installed at the C-mine arts centre in Belgian industrial city Genk. It was created to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the exhibitions and events venue – which opened in 2005 at the decommissioned Winterslag coal mining site.

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Located in the open space in front of the main building, the maze was created by Gijs Van Vaerenbergh – a collaboration between Pieterjan Gijs and Arnout Van Vaerenbergh, whose previous installations in their home country include a see-through church and an upside-down dome of suspended chains inside another religious building.

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The maze structure measures 37.5 square metres and uses 186 tons of five-millimetre-thick steel plates for its walls.

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The partitions, which reach five metres in height, are laid out as a square grid with missing sections that form a pathway through the structure.

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A series of voids were formed using Boolean transformations, which involve intersecting three-dimensional volumes in a digital modelling programme and using their edges to cut shapes out from each other.

"A series of Boolean transformations create spaces and perspectives that reinterpret the traditional Labyrinth is a sculptural installation that focuses on the experience of space," said the studio.

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Shapes including spheres, cylinders and cones have been cut out from the box-like structure's walls, forming larger open spaces within the maze and gaps in the vertical surfaces.

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These gaps and clearings allow maze navigators to see into other sections and through to outside, but appear to provide little help in finding the way out.

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"These Boolean transformations convert the walk through the labyrinth into a sequence of spatial and sculptural experiences," said Gijs Van Vaerenbergh. "At the same time, the cutouts function as 'frames' to the labyrinth."

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"Seen from some certain perspectives, the cut-outs are fragmentary, whereas from other viewpoints the entire cut-out shape is unveiled," added the studio.

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Visitors enter at one corner of the structure beneath an overhanging section, and can exit at two points where the outer wall is low enough to step over.

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A bird's eye view of the maze is gained by climbing the towering steel structure beside it, which is known as a headframe and previously functioned to hoist the transportation compartment from the underground mine shaft below.

"The goal is to create a certain layeredness and openness to interpretations," said the studio.

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The title Labyrinth is based on the name of a maze from Greek mythology, built by Daedalus for King Minos of Crete at his palace of Knossos to hold the part-man, part-bull Minotaur beast.

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After Ancient Greece, mazes became popular across the world and have been made in materials that range from hedges and hay bales to bricks and books.

Recent interpretations include a triangle-shaped maze made from glass panes and a mechanical maze that rearranges itself as you move through it.

Photography is by Filip Dujardin.

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Axonometric diagram