Navigating Daedalus’ Labyrinth – The Convergence of Design and Law

Ariadne’s Thread - When You Need Help Finding Your Way Around

by Bill Thomas

“The world can doubtless never be well known by theory: practice is absolutely necessary; but surely it is of great use to a young man, before he sets out for that country, full of mazes, windings, and turnings, to have at least a general map of it, made by some experienced traveler.”

– Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield – “Lord Chesterfield” (1694 – 1773)

Daedalus’ Labyrinth

The Labyrinth

The Labyrinth

In Greek mythology, Daedalus (literally translated: “clever worker”), was a renowned craftsman and sculptor, who designed and built the fabled Labyrinth, an elaborate structure so complex, it was rumored to have nearly trapped its inventor after construction. He also fashioned intricate wings he and his son Icarus used to escape Crete after imprisonment there by King Minos, for whom he fashioned the sprawling maze. Some ancient historians credit him with inventing carpentry, the saw, axe, plumb-line, drill, and glue. In modern times, a derivation of his name, “daedalean,” is an adjective meaning “complicated” or “convoluted.” Fitting, given the intertwined yet ill-fated thread woven by his life-story.

In colloquial English, “labyrinth” is synonymous with a maze, yet there truly is a distinction between the two. A maze is generally a complex branching (multicursal) tangle with choices of path and direction, holding many false paths and “dead ends.” A labyrinth is typified by a single (unicursal) non-branching path, which leads only to the puzzle’s center. Seemingly, then, one entering the Labyrinth should be able to wind their way to dead center and back. Unfortunately for any foolhardy adventurer looking to brave the task, they would usually just wind up, well, dead.

Theseus vanquishes the Minotaur

Theseus vanquishes the Minotaur

That was because the Labyrinth was populated by a singularly horrific resident, the Minotaur, a huge, dreadful beast that devoured any who dared enter his lair. Each year, the Athenians were forced to send their seven most courageous young warriors and seven most beautiful maidens to Crete, as retribution to King Minos for the slaying of his son, where they entered the Labyrinth, never to be seen again. Sacrificed to the Minotaur. Finally, a young Hero of Athens, Theseus, son of the king, set off to slay the beast. When he arrived in Crete, he caught the eye of Ariadne, King Minos’ daughter, who immediately fell in love with him. On the secret advice of Daedalus, Ariadne gave Theseus a ball of thread to aid in finding his way out of the Labyrinth. Emerging with the head of the Minotaur, the path set for him by Ariadne’s Thread, Theseus cemented his place as one of the greatest champions of the ancients.

Navigating Daedalus’ Labyrinth

This story thus encourages others to consider the long-term consequences of their own inventions and designs with great care, lest they do more harm than good. Daedalus, perhaps unwittingly, created something having subsequent negative consequences, in this case devising the monstrous Minotaur’s almost impenetrable Labyrinth, which made slaying the beast an endeavor of legendary difficulty. But the story’s happy end also brings hope that, with a plan, and understanding, one can emerge from grave danger victorious. (Having a champion with a sword doesn’t hurt).

The point of this enterprise, a denudation and exposé of the legal underpinnings and exposures of the design professions, is both informational and instructive, for me and the reader. I hope to add frequent updates on topics of interest to designers, policy makers and anyone involved in the construction process or construction law. Through these writings, perhaps we can enhance understanding of the design professions’ roles and responsibilities and encourage fairness in case outcomes and contract negotiations, among other topics.

Ariadne’s Thread

Armed with a sword and ball of twine, Theseus eventually emerges victorious.

Armed with a sword and ball of twine, Theseus eventually emerges victorious.

This premiere post highlights one of the categories of discussion on the site: Ariadne’s Thread. You will note a tab bearing that name. The articles posted here will typically consist of recent case law updates and explanations of court rulings, to the extent they can be explained. Following the lead of Theseus, when we understand the path, and plan our route, we can usually make it out alive. A ball of twine or some breadcrumbs would be good too. Maybe I will sprinkle a few here and there that the birds don’t get.

Thank you for noticing this effort. I encourage you to comment, make suggestions for future articles, contact me for more information, and feel free to share anything you like with your colleagues. See you at the end of the path. Just don’t be afraid to ask for directions along the way.

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