­The Hive was the centrepiece of the multi-award-winning UK Pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo. Following the success of the pavilion, the UKTI and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew reached an agreement for The Hive to be relocated to Kew Gardens for a period of two years. The same team who designed the original pavilion has been responsible for bringing the structure home and integrating it into its new setting, where it will live until 2018. This is the first time the UK has ever rebuilt an Expo pavilion.

The Hive uses light and sound to highlight the challenges facing bees – a species that has become increasingly threatened by changes to the UK countryside – and their important role as pollinators. Visitors are taken on an immersive multi-sensory journey through a colourful and vibrant wildflower meadow into the world of the bee colony.

BDP’s landscape team worked closely with Wolfgang Buttress, the artist responsible for The Hive, to create a sympathetic and appropriate landscape setting for the installation that is accessible to all. Visitors walk through a fruit orchard and enter a natural wildflower meadow. As they near the centre of the meadow, the focal point of the dramatic structure comes into view: a golden orb made of fine steel lattice based on the design of a honeycomb. The 3D lattice structure sits on 3m tall columns and pulsates and buzzes with the noise of a real bee colony.

A mix of wildflower planting has been used within the meadows to provide a variety of sources of pollen and nectar for bees and other pollinators. As the meadow has developed and various plant species have come into flower, the sound and sight of the bees within The Hive has been accompanied by real bees within the meadow. A native mix of perennial wildflowers has been used for the outer areas of meadow, offering a subtle colour palette of flowers. Closer to The Hive, this is replaced with a mix of bright annual and perennial wildflowers, described by Tony Kirkham, Head of Arboretum and Horticultural Services at Kew, as ‘wildflower bling.’

An important element of the landscape design was to provide a setting for the Hive that would have a meaningful and functional legacy once the sculpture has been removed after two years at Kew Gardens. The landscape needed to provide Kew with an event space to hold external classes and talks, set within a landscape typology unique within the gardens.

BDP’s team consisted of landscape architects and structural, civil and environmental engineers.