Following are some notes from the the Final Concept Brief for the Confidence Exhibit written by Jean Betts and myself, 8/1/92.
How we proposed to achieve our aim:
Myths and stories abound, in all cultures, whose metaphor for acquiring these qualities is in the form of an extraordinary journey:- Ulysses, Maui, Seigfried, Theseus, Alice, Jason, Perceval, Siddhartha, the Pilgrim, the Hobbit; the qualities themselves appearing symbolically as Fire, Treasure, the Grail, The Philosophers' Stone, the Golden Fleece, the Queen's Crown.
Because we too aim for each child's quest to be as extraordinary a journey as possible, and the result, enhanced confidence and self-esteem, the archetypal 'odyssey' is a fitting conceptual base.
This concept has helped inspire and focus our ideas. Each mythical or fictional quest was made up of a series of tasks or adventures, challenging the fears, imagination, faith and abilities of the traveller. Thus our exhibit comprises a wide variety of tasks which symbolise these legendary deeds, using the appropriate archetypal idiom. The structure itself represents a mountain, a symbol of achievement and secure identity. It, and the labyrinth of pathways within, is a symbolic synthesis of the quest images; the Pilgrim's inward spiral, Theseus' maze, the Alchemists' pyramid, Jung's three storied house as a symbol for the Self.
The entrances into it represent a threshold from one world to another - the path to the Underworld, Tawhaki's vines to the heavens, Alice's climb through the mirror, etc., in myth and fiction. Exits from the Exhibit are a number of slides which represent the mountain's waterfalls.
An archetypal theme has, by definition, universal appeal, welcoming all personalities, cultures and levels of development. Thus our tree will not be defined, say, as the apple tree of Genesis, any more than the mountain will be named Taranaki. They will represent all trees and all mountains, as they appear in countless mythologies the world over. The child can decide their significance for itself, an essential part of defining its own identity.
Description of the Exhibit:
The Exhibit is constructed of three main levels of pathways - a labyrinth that forms a skeletal grid. The grid structure houses a variety of entrances, theme rooms, obstacles and tasks. A number of slides act as exits, taking children off the Mountain.
These present a wide range of physical and creative opportunities for all levels of confidence and interest, which will challenge and stimulate body, mind, spirit and social awareness - exactly as does the experience of climbing a real mountain, in fact.
Some examples of such were... the Word Room, the Tree, the Numbers Room, the Engine Room, the Darkness etc... the plan was to involve "experts" in the development of each experience, including artists, writers, mathematicians, scientists, engineers etc.
Architect Ian Stantial worked with me on the structure of the exhibit which sat centrally and rose up into the architectural heart of the building, a pounamu-tipped mountain.
On opening day we had six experiences completed with the plan to add more as finances permitted.
The labyrinthine skeleton of the exhibit was complete. A 3 leveled structure created by a grid of pathways. Steel mesh between the pathways allowed visibility through to the other levels. A room within the structure housed the "office" of the programmer for the exhibit.
The Climbing Wall, designed by Para Matchitt was one of the ways to gain access the confidence exhibit. It included a disappearing illusion that was also an entrance to the mirror maze. Children would literally disappear in front of their parents' or friends' eyes.
The Mirror Maze with a revolving door at it's centre had a variety of illusory entrances, one being via the mirror of an old wardrobe. Within the maze was a room of illusions by Neil Dawson.
The Make Things Room included the "beginning" of a 3 dimensional artwork by Debra Bustin that children could walk into. Children "completed" the artwork by adding things that they had made in the "make things area" where there were workstations stocked will a variety of small objects to make things with. The workstations were adapted from old dental workstations by furniture designer Greg Bloomfield. The children had the choice to add what they had made to the artwork or to take their piece home.
The Performance Room, a miniature proscenium arch theatre with curtains and lighting that were able to be operated by the children. It included a back stage dress up area with trunks full of costumes and props. Children put on performances to audiences seated out in front.
The Vertical Slide, with 3 metres of "free fall", began high up within the architectural peak of the building. It could be seen from outside CDP through the windows in the mountain. From there, children appeared to be falling from above into nowhere.