Eye On Design: The Hive at Kew Gardens

the hive at kew garden phot by gail worley
All Photos By Gail

Contrary to what one might assume, there are no actual living bees inside The Hive; a unique world-class installation and experience on view at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in London. Created by artist Wolfgang Buttress, The Hive uses sound to provide nature enthusiasts with a way to consider the life and work of bees from a new and profound angle. Let’s take a look inside this mammoth structure.

view at base of the hive photo by gail worley
View From Under the Base of The Hive

There is no question that Pollination plays a critical part in our food security – one-third of global crop yield is dependent, to some extent, on bees and other pollinators.

path to the hive photo by gail worley
On the Path Up to The Hive

In highlighting the importance of pollination in our food chain, The Hive poses one of the most pressing questions of our time – how can we protect our pollinators to ensure that we can feed a growing human population?

path to the hive photo by gail worley
entering the hive photo by gail worley
Entering The Hive

Honeybees communicate by vibrating messages to the colony against the honeycomb they live on (one of these distinctive vibrations includes the famous ‘waggle’ dance). For The Hive,  honeybee vibrations were recorded from a beehive at Kew using a device called an accelerometer, which measures the vibration, or acceleration of motion of a structure. This technique for recording a colony’s conversations was pioneered by Dr. Martin Bencsik (Nottingham, Trent University) in order to monitor the health of beehives.

view from top of hive photo by gail worley

Buttress was greatly inspired by the work of Dr.  Bencsik  whose research is a prime example of how British science and creativity are helping solve global environmental problems.

light inside the hive photo by gail worley

The Hive is illuminated by almost 1000 flickering LED lights, which are sadly not that visible in the daylight but which make for a spectacular sight after dark. These lights, together with the swelling, orchestral music, pulse in time to the recorded vibrations produced when bees communicate with each other.

view from inside the hive photo by gail worley

view out the top of the hive photo by gail worley

This installation represents the different levels of vibration recorded from within Kew’s honeybee hive. The pulsing of nearly 1000 LED lights and the swell of the orchestra music mirror the changing intensity of the recorded vibrations.

view outside hive photo by gail worley

hive during musical performance 2016 photo y gail worley
The Hive During a 2016 Musical Performance by BE, the Musical Collective that Created its Soundscape

In this way, The Hive allows guests to immerse themselves in the fluctuating levels of communication from a busy honeybee colony. The orchestral soundscape is in the key of C, the key in which honeybees buzz.

The Hive, Created in association with Simmonds Studio, Stage One and architectural services company BDP, was photographed at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in London England.

the hive at kew gardens photo by gail worey

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