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United Kingdom

Dept of Trade and Investment



Expo Milano

Kew Gardens, London



2015 – Milan

2016 – London


commissioned by UK Government

designed by Wolfgang Buttress

contractor: Stage One

senior project director: Adam Wildi

A 17m-high honeycomb structure made from 170,000 aluminium elements fitted with speakers and LEDs to relay information and amplified sounds from inside a real beehive in Nottingham, UK. A response to the Expo theme Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, and the UK’s chosen theme Grown in Britain. Gold medal winner for architecture and landscape and visited by 3.3 million people over six months. The Hive was re-sited in Kew Gardens in 2016.

Is it just because of my British sensibilities that I came away feeling inordinately proud of how well the UK pavilion worked as a showcase for the best in British design integrity, both intellectual and creative? It was a lesson in restraint. An elegant execution of Nottingham based artist Wolfgang Buttress's big idea - the importance of bees to our ecosystem - it tied in nicely with the Expo's overarching theme: more than a third of our food depends on bees as pollinators, and the UK pavilion celebrates the life and talents of the bee while addressing the growing threats to its population...


Buttress worked closely with York-based creative construction and engineering company Stage One to realise this extraordinary hive, which appears to pulsate with energy, even before you encounter its spine-tingling soundtrack....Adam Wildi, Stage One director, says: 'When Wolfgang won the competition, we showed him our machinery and customised software and told him we'd produce the hive. We altered his idea from a welded structure to a component-based one. The whole thing is built by hand.' After eight months in design, a team of eight engineers spent two months constructing the hive on site, using 170,000 individual aluminium components. Assembled in 32 horizontal layers, the structure is composed of chords, rods and nodes... But it's not just the big statements that impress about this pavilion - the smaller, more people-centric ones do too. 


Veronica Simpson

7 July 2015

©images courtesy of Stage One 

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