Skyscraper for bees by
University at Buffalo students

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High-rise living is no longer just for people. A team of architecture students from the University at Buffalo has recently constructed a skyscraper for a colony of bees (+ slideshow).

Skyscraper for bees by University at Buffalo students

Erected amongst a desolate group of disused grain silos beside the Buffalo River, the seven-metre tower provides a new hive for honey bees that had formally formerly taken up residence in the boarded-up window of an old office block.

Skyscraper for bees by University at Buffalo students

The tower is clad with a honeycomb of hexagonal steel panels. Triangular perforations speckle the surfaces, allowing light to filter gently inside.

Skyscraper for bees by University at Buffalo students

The bees are housed in a hexagonal wooden box suspended near the top of the tower. The base of the box is glazed so visitors can enter the tower and look up into the hive.

Skyscraper for bees by University at Buffalo students

The box is also attached to a system of pulleys so that beekeepers can bring it safely down to ground for maintenance tasks. University at Buffalo students Courtney Creenan, Kyle Mastalinski, Daniel Nead, Lisa Stern and Scott Selin named the project Elevator B, as a reference to this mechanism.

Skyscraper for bees by University at Buffalo students

The tower represents the winning entry of the university's Hive City competition, which asked students to design a habitat for the bees. Other entries included a wooden cube and a geodesic dome.

Skyscraper for bees by University at Buffalo students

Other stories on Dezeen relating to bees include conceptual proposals for artificial bees and a series of honeycomb vases constructed by bees. See more stories about insects on Dezeen.

Here's a statement from the design team:


Elevator B

Elevator B is an urban habitat for a colony of honeybees, which originally occupied a boarded window in an abandoned office building in Buffalo, NY. Although not created for a specific client organization per se, the project has generated a great deal of public curiosity because of the combination of the colony of honeybees, an interesting and until very recently, a restricted-access site, and a well-designed object. The site, Silo City, is a group of largely abandoned grain elevators and silos on the Buffalo River. Elevator B is intended as a symbol of the site's environmental and economic regeneration.

Skyscraper for bees by University at Buffalo students

The 22' tall tower is a honeycombed steel structure designed and built utilizing standard steel angle and tube sections. It is sheathed in perforated stainless steel panels that were parametrically designed to protect the hive and it's visitors from the wind, and allow for both solar gain in the winter and shading in the summer. The bees are housed in a hexagonal cypress box with a laminated glass bottom through which the bees can be observed.

This "beecab" provides protection, warmth and separates entry access between bees and humans. Visitors are able to enter the tower, stand below the cypress beecab and look up to view the colony of bees behind glass, similar to an ant farm, as they build their hive. Beekeepers gain access to the hive by lowering it, allowing them to ensure the health and safety of the bees. This feature also caters to the school groups that visit the site, encouraging children to get a close up view.

Visitors to the site have ranged from school groups discussing the natural ecosystems of Western New York and the Great Lakes, to adult photography classes using Elevator B and the site as a subject. A nearby nature preserve has also led several field trips to the project and is in the process of developing a formal education program centered on the bees and on colony collapse disorder, which threatens the species. Interpretive signage about honeybees and the site is currently under development and will be part of the larger redevelopment plan for Silo City.

Skyscraper for bees by University at Buffalo students

The questions asked by visitors range from the simple to the complex, but they would never have been asked in the first place if the visitor did not have the access to bees that is fostered by Elevator B. This is a clear demonstration that architecture can and does do more than serve aesthetic or structural purposes. In Elevator B's example, it sparks children to learn and adults to reconsider what they thought they knew. This includes the designers themselves, who have not only designed for the needs of their clients but have become inspired to become advocates for them as well.

Location: Silo City in Buffalo NY
Firm Name: Hive City
Team: Courtney Creenan, Kyle Mastalinski, Daniel Nead, Lisa Stern, Scott Selin
Project Sponsors: University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning, Rigidized Metals Corporation

  • Dom

    That's "formerly", not "formally". Proofread before posting, please.

    • http://www.dezeen.com Dezeen

      Whoops! Thanks for pointing that out. Amy/Dezeen

  • Biene Maja

    Dezeen, please send this article to the Austrian Federal Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Berlakovich).

  • blah

    Beautiful, though it’s a little depressing that there are bees with a nicer apartment than me.

    • Jayna

      This made me laugh! So true, I completely agree :-(

  • Zaedrus

    What is this!? A LIBRARY for ANTS!?

    • derek

      You can’t read good, can you? It’s a skyscraper for bees.

    • http://www.builtfabricblog.blogspot.com archirube

      It needs to be at least 3 times that size!

  • smack

    “Triangular perforations speckle the surfaces, allowing light to filter gently inside.”

    Bees love gently filtered light, aww yeah.

  • oli

    Beeautiful.

    I’ll get my coat.

  • http://cargocollective.com/bbowers Bradley Bowers

    I would love to see more of these in other cities that have dwindling bee populations, maybe a wooden facade would be less harsh in southern climates… but nonetheless bravo! A nice take on design builds!

  • harderius

    Much needed! Well done! The object is brilliant too.

  • tedchan

    That’s what happens when students smoke too much grass.

    • blah

      Not really, it’s beautiful, it’s functional, it’s providing environmental regeneration to an industrial site as well as a home to a species which is currently suffering massive population losses for reasons currently unknown to scientists.

      Unless of course you mean they got high and really creative.

  • James

    @ Bradley Bowers. I completely agree that a metal facade may be influenced by the climate too harshly. In a hot climate that facade would become red hot and probably blindingly reflective. The problem with timber however is that it could become infested with other insects that could compete and I guess it wouldn’t last as long. 3D-print it :P

    Apart from that, love the project and I fully support its aims.

  • TI-83 Plus

    This is what happens when a SUNY school tries desperately to catch up to the rest of the academic world. A day late and a dollar short. Do something interesting.

    • http://www.localhomespot.com Evelyn M

      This is interesting for so many reasons. Architectural art has been used throughout the centuries – but never for such a NEEDED purpose as the preservation of the highly endangered bee, thus bringing needed attention to this species. If this unit could be prefab and shipped it would be an awesome addition to parks everywhere. I really like the idea of the 3D printing, this would allow it to be produced in an economical manner in the colour of the host park or yard’s choice.

      • George

        Bees are not a ‘highly endangered’ species. Don’t believe everything you hear or read. Many commercial and MOST hobbeying beekeepers don’t report any losses at all. There’s no such thing as CCD, only bad beekeepers.

        • blah

          Yeah, there’s no global warming either, it’s all lies, LIES I TELL YOU!

        • http://www.localhomespot.com Evelyn M

          Then why do most people I know have to resort to pollinating their own zucchinis now? Maybe where you live they are still thriving. Why do you believe your micro world is an example of the complete planet? If you have a multitude of bees where you live consider yourself lucky because on Vancouver Island in Canada the numbers have gone down dramatically and we are in a healthy climate.

    • Abacus

      TI-83+

      It seems that “judges drawn from a pool of luminaries that included renowned architects, architecture critics from media outlets like the New York Times, and the curators and founders of institutions like the Museum of Modern Art and Architecture for Humanity” do not agree with you, as they awarded the project the 2013 Architizer A+ Jury Award in the Student Design Build category.

  • http://www.animalarchitecture.org Ned Dodington

    Hive City is a fantastic project. Joyce and her team at SUNY Buffalo have done a great job. Please see the Animal Architecture feature post of Hive City, its design process and other related information here: http://www.animalarchitecture.org/updates-on-hive….

    More information about designing with animals and the architects and designers who are engaging in this type of cross-species pioneering work can always be found on AnimalArchitecture.org.

  • Damian

    Great design really inspiring. I am a beekeeper in Australia and I feel that the heat generated from a metal structure like this would destroy the colony especially with temperatures reaching over 40 degrees Celsius in summer.

    As mentioned a timber structure would work better. A metal frame with cypress that is treated with a combination of linseed oil, beeswax and propolis to minimize disease and weathering would be ideal. You could replace the timber panels as they become weathered over time.

    Well done! I look forward to seeing some of these in Australia one day.

    • Eric Robinson

      I grew up near Buffalo and am familiar with the length and severity of the winters. This structure does not appear to provide the insulation and protection from the elements required to keep the internal temperatures of the hive between 91- 98F.

      This is needed to keep the brood alive (baby bees) during the winter. Please reach out to professional beekeepers in the area to help you assess the insulation requirements for this area.

  • Tristan Smith

    I am a landscape architect and a bee keeper so I thought I might add my 2cents after the post has been here for two years.

    This is a beautiful structure that is simple architectural art and a bespoke bee hive. It’s an interesting idea, however this looks extremely expensive for one bee hive. Let’s consider a stainless steel structure to a timber langstroth hive. For one of these skyscraper hives, dozens of langstroths could exist. More hives equals more bees.