The extravagant and controversial Expo 2015, currently hosted by Milan, has been subjected to a number of local protests and criticisms about the apparent disconnect between its corporate sponsors, the exorbitant cost of its temporary pavilions, enormous cost overruns and its theme of "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life."
But somehow in midst of all the grandiosity and tumult, the bees have not been forgotten. Created by British artist Wolfgang Buttress and engineer Tristan Simmonds for the British Pavilion, The Hive is an enormous space inspired by the apiarian lifecycle and role that bees play in the ecosystem. It's also one of the few pavilions that will be reused, rather than demolished, after the Expo.
Made out of 169,300 aluminium and steel pieces that form a 14-metre-cubed (494 cubic feet) honeycomb structure, that is situated at the edge of a planned, pollinator-friendly wildflower meadow, the installation allows visitors to walk into its open, globular core, on top of a glass platform.
Buttress tells Dezeen his motivations behind the design:
The theme of this year's Expo is Feeding the Planet, which is fantastic, it's really laudable. But how do you square that with building these nearly 150 pavilions all spending 10-20-30 million plus, which is a lot of money. There is an inherent contradiction and irony in that. So my thought was that if I was going to do something it needed to be quiet, it needed to be as sustainable as possible so that the sculpture itself could have a second life. And I was really keen to use landscape as the heart of it, so that the landscape becomes part of the work. It's a habitat for the bees, not just a backdrop.
Bee sounds -- recorded from a study at Nottingham Trent University that investigated the health of bee colonies -- are played to give visitors an approximate sense of what it's like to be a bee. The level of brightness of the structure's network of LED lights are interactively linked to the level of activity in a hive back in Nottingham, so visitors can literally "sense" the aliveness of a real beehive. In the video above, Buttress describes the first time he handled a beehive: "When I first opened a beehive, I imagined that it would be intimidating or scary, but in effect, the sound you have, this hum, this deep resonance, is incredibly calming and reassuring. It made me feel a oneness, a sympathy with [the bees]."
Highlighting the bee's critical importance to sustaining life and biodiversity on earth, this remarkable pavilion uses technology to link visitors with a living hive, to give them an affinity with these small but vital creatures -- reminding us that as wondrous as the bees are, they are in danger of disappearing -- and us with them. The Milan Expo runs until October; more over at Dezeen and Wolfgang Buttress.