The Hive

Despite their piercing stingers and painful venom, bees are benevolent creatures. And what’s more—they’re an essential part of the global food chain.

Thanks to bee pollination, the earth is ripe with fresh produce, like tomatoes, onions, and carrots, as well as hundreds of varieties of fruits and oilseeds. In celebration of these munificent creatures, Kew Gardens in London is presenting The Hive, a massive, experiential installation and homage to the work of bees. The structure was designed by Wolfgang Buttress in collaboration with BDP and Simmonds Studio for the U.K. Pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo and is the first-ever British pavilion to return to its home country for display.

From the outside, Buttress’s Hive looks like a mirage—a surreal 55-foot-tall floating network of delicate silver lattices erected in a vibrant meadow of wildflowers. But it’s not until visitors enter the structure that the action really begins. Once inside, gardengoers will experience the whimsical twinkle of thousands of flickering LED lights accompanied by an orchestral arrangement inspired by the deep, melodic hum of bees.

A representative poses for photographs looking up under the 17-metre high bee health inspired 'The Hive' aluminum installation, at the launch of "Christmas at Kew" at the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in London, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016. The event is open to the public from November 23 until January 2 and includes an illuminated trail lit up by over 60,000 lights.

To provide further insight into life inside a bee colony, the tempo of the music and intensity of the lighting within the artificial, human-size hive is triggered by the real-time activity inside a living beehive, situated nearby in the gardens. The figurative buzz of the installation can be felt all around Kew, with pollination-inspired programming and food offered throughout the run of the exhibition. Through November 2017;

The Hive, installation by artist Wolfgang Buttress, RBG Kew, summer 2016.

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, appearing almost to hover, a spherical void hollowed from the centre, allows visitors to enter. Walking beneath the sculpture, visitors may peer up through the glass floor into the interior.

Accelerometers (vibration sensors) are used to measure the activity of a real bee colony 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 for 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. The pavilion explores the life of the bee colony through an immersive multi-sensory experience.

The Hive, BE.ONE performance 29 September 2016

The centrepiece of the award winning UK Pavilion at the Milan Expo, The Hive, will have a new home at Kew Gardens.

The UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew announced today that the structure, which is an immersive, multi-sensory experience inspired by UK ground-breaking scientific research into the health of bees, will open to the public in June 2016.


Landscape Architect Director James Millington said:

“We are thrilled to be working with Kew Gardens to bring The Hive back to the UK.  The original concept for the UK Pavilion was based around landscape, and so it gives me great pleasure to once again be playing a lead role in the next chapter of this fantastic project. A sensitive approach to the integration of The Hive into the gardens is needed and our international team of award winning designers, made up of landscape architects and engineers, will work closely with Wolfgang Buttress and Kew to achieve this."

Richard Deverell, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew said:


“We are truly delighted to announce The Hive’s move to Kew, both for its magnificent aesthetic appeal and for the resonance it has with our work – I can think of no better home for this remarkable marriage of architecture and science."

Lord Maude, Minister of State for Trade & Investment, said:


“The UK Pavilion at the Milan World Expo 2015 was an outstanding success. It was visited by over 3.3 million people in just six months, with a further 450 million people viewing it across the world’s media and online, and it received multiple awards, including the Expo’s gold medal for best architecture and landscape design."


Our architects, landscape, lighting and sustainability consultants designed the original pavilion as part of a team led by Nottingham-based artist Wolfgang Buttress and including contractor Stage One and structural engineer Tristan Simmonds.

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