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.
Kew Gardens, London
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and UKTI
|Type of scheme|
2016 Artas-ua.info Institute Award (Best Temporary Artas-ua.info Design), 2015 World Interiors News Award, 2015 FX Award (Lighting), 2015 Architecture Lighting Award, 2015 Manchester Architects Award, 2015 DARC Award
To relocate the Hive from Milan to Kew Gardens, as a cost-effective and visually stunning temporary installation that delivers a strong message about the decline of the world’s bee population. The installation forms part of a wider strategic approach by Kew to enhance its educational and scientific research offer.
BDP, Wolfgang Buttress, Simmonds Studio, Hoare Lea
The Hive consists of 32 horizontal, stacked layers of hexagonal geometry creating an abstracted analogue of a honeycomb. A rotational twist in the aluminium structure introduces movement suggestive of a swarm. The form is a 14m cube raised-up on columns that appears almost to hover. A spherical void hollowed from the centre allows visitors to enter. Walking beneath the sculpture, visitors can peer up through the glass floor into the interior.
Accelerometers (vibration sensors) are used to measure the activity of real bee colonies in the UK, feeding real-time signals to a 1000 RGBW LED light array inside the spherical void. Algorithms are used to convert the bee colony vibrations into lighting effects. Each light is individually addressable, allowing the Hive to pulse and glow in response to the signals it receives, so acting as a visual representation of bee activity. This unison of light and sound brings together art and science through the research methods of Dr Martin Bencsik and the vision of Wolfgang Buttress.
Hard surfacing throughout the installation is formed using bound stone and recycled car tyre rubber. This creates a sustainable and fully permeable surfacing solution which allowed us to drain the scheme without any visible drainage points.
The scheme design required a steep embankment to be formed to accommodate level change and envelop the Hive. A bespoke retaining solution was developed to allow the planting to establish and thrive, ensuring the design concept of the meadow continued throughout.
The team worked closely with Kew Gardens and Wildflower Turf to develop a wildflower mix which would primarily provide an attraction for pollinators, but also create a beautiful setting for the Hive sculpture throughout all seasons.
Due to the relatively short timescales associated with the project and the public use of Kew Gardens, it was imperative that the wildflower meadow should be established when the installation opened in June 2016. To achieve this display, Wildflower Turf were commissioned to grow the wildflower meadow to be lifted on in May, in the same way that general turf is used. This allowed the Hive structure and associated groundworks to be completed prior to installation of the meadow, which was laid in a semi-established state within two weeks of construction completion.
The general wildflower landscape mix of 34 native species and 3 grasses forms the primary mix. The species mixture consists of 3 grasses:
The central area of wildflower border turf contains all the above in the mix, the following 19 non-native species:
Additional species have been plug planted to extend and strengthen the flowering periods.
The native hedging consists of the following:
• The Hive is positioned on an existing grass mound.