If you haven’t heard about the Hive currently living at Kew Gardens then where have you been? In fairness you’ve probably been busy, sorry, but seriously, it’s been on tube posters and everything!
If you have genuinely been super duper busy then let me fill you in: The Hive is an impressive aluminium structure designed by Wolfgang Buttress to mimic a beehive. And due to its 17m height it is large enough for us humans to venture inside; we can finally see what it’s like to be our favourite insect! (everyone loves bees, we hate wasps but we love bees)
And if simply walking into a giant hive wasn’t good enough it also feels like a hive. Attached to the structure inside are LED lights that react to the vibrations of a real life beehive just 300m away. This means every visitor’s experience is different because it all depends on the activity inside that beehive which is constantly in flux throughout the day.
When we think of bees you can’t help but imagine the sound they make so a silent hive simply would not do. Welcoming you into the hive is a low-level hum with hints of an orchestra and choir behind it. Using the same principle as the lights, the sound builds when activity increases and more and more instruments and voices are added to the ensemble.
Underneath the hive is another completely unique ‘bees-perience’ (hehe). The way in which our little yellow and black stripy friends communicate is wholly different to ours; they use vibrations, ever wondered what that might be like? All you need is a small wooden stick (I’m pretty sure the ones there were coffee stirrers) to activate your inner bee. By biting down on the stick and placing it into the Hive’s ‘bone conductors’ you create a bridge for vibrations to travel across so they end up in your skull. Immediately your head is full of sound and you can hear a human explaining all about the signals bees use to communicate.
“The Hive represents the important relationship between bee and human, bringing together beauty, science, sound and landscape through a multi-sensory experience.” – Kew Gardens Website
I’m not sure the Hive achieves all of these aims. The relationship between bees and humans is of course important, but there is little interpretation to communicate how important, and in what ways.
What the Hive does do brilliantly is showcase how wonderful bees are; it captivates your imagination and heightens your awareness of their beauty. Is that what the project is aiming to do? If so it relies on you to forge your own path to secure a future for bees which could be risky.
I’m not too sure but I know that the instillation made a lasting impression on me that I certainly wont forget. In fact, I even requested a free sachet of wildflower seeds from Friends of the Earth so I could create a small haven for the critters in my garden. Here’s hoping it’ll look a bit like this next year…