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Wolfgang Buttress - Artist

PROJECT: THE Hive


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Exploring the crucial role of a bee colony in the global ecosystem, The Hive – Wolfgang Buttress’ award-winning multi-sensory pavilion – has been given a new home at London’s Kew Gardens.

The structure was the centrepiece of the UK’s entry at the 2015 Milan Expo, where it attracted more than 3.3 million visitors and was awarded the BIE Gold Award for Architecture and Landscape.

It moved to Kew – a UNESCO World Heritage Site containing 132 hectares of landscaped gardens – in June. Visitors are taken on an experiential journey through the life of a bee colony, from an outside orchard and wildflower meadow into the hive itself, while orchestral buzzes and pulses fill the air.

The 17-metre-high, 40-tonne aluminium structure was inspired by British scientific research into the health of bees and their role in pollinating crops essential to human survival.

More than 1,000 LED lights are illuminated within The Hive, changing in sound and light intensity to relay information triggered by vibration sensors in a real beehive.

The pavilion was created in collaboration with architects BDP, engineers Simmonds Studio and constructors Stage One, who built the structure from 115,000 individual components.

““The Hive creates a powerful, immersive space for us to explore the urgent issues we face in relation to pollinators, their intimate relationships with plants and their vital role in helping us feed a rapidly growing population. To be able to bring those stories alive here at Kew – a centre of scientific knowledge and expertise and one of the planet’s most biodiverse city landscapes – is a true honour.” says Richard Deverell, director at Kew.

Kew scientists are using The Hive as a platform to share their research into the life of bees and how they can be protected.

According to Buttress: “The form and idea originated from dreaming and a hand-drawn sketch. I wanted to find a simple metaphor for the state of the planet in 2015. The bee can be seen as a sentinel for the health of the world. Pollination is essential to the wellbeing and feeding of the planet. I wanted to express something that’s universal, and that goes beyond language, age and intellect.”

“I wanted to create something reserved and conscious of its context, yet at the same time innovative and impactful,” he says. “For me, the tension between those qualities is important.”

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