San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

A labyrinth at school

From the print edition

Walking up to the bright blue gates of the Canadian International School in suburban San José, it is easy to see that this is no ordinary school. At first glance, the brightly colored murals on the walls and the ancient Indian burial ground just past the front gates catch your eye, but what really makes this school different is an unassuming, painted spiral at the school’s center – a labyrinth.

“When you go out there it looks like just a bunch of lines on the cement, but it’s a process,” said John Ovens, the school’s director. “You go in it and you change.  Your ideas, your frustrations, they all change.” 

A labyrinth has a single path with one entrance that also serves as the exit.  Rather than being confusing, like a maze, a labyrinth is designed to spur right-brain activity and facilitate meditation. Labyrinths date back to ancient times in civilizations across the globe, and, in some studies, the act of walking them has been associated with everything from decreased stress levels to a general feeling of well-being. To Ovens and Ronald Esquivel, the project’s designer, these benefits can assist no one more than teenagers. 

“We arrived at the concept that kids and teenagers generally encounter conflict and contrast on a daily basis,” said Esquivel. “Contrast is overcome through resolution, so we used the basic form of a three-partitioned spiral to create that resolution.”

Esquivel’s resolution labyrinth is the second he has built in the country and he is planning six more over the next few years. His first labyrinth, in Tamarindo, is the largest known labyrinth in the world. Esquivel’s work can be seen at

Contact Lindsay Fendt at

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