Herbier // For the bees – The Hive at Kew Gardens


Not only is Wolfgang Buttress’ beautiful 17-metre-high swirling structure The Hive and accompanying meditative soundscape designed to emulate a bee hive and the deep visceral hum of its residents, the sound and light within are also energised by the real-time activity and fluctuations of bees located nearby. A wonderful way to explore the story of pollination and be reminded of the many challenges facing bees today

From 18 June 2016 until the end of 2017, Kew Gardens becomes home to The Hive. Towering 17 metres high and twisting out of the ground in a shape suggestive of a swarm of bees, it will stand as a visual symbol of the pollinator’s role in feeding humanity and the challenges facing bees today. Through illuminating talks, tours, activities and films it is designed to show visitors that they too can make a difference. With its pulsating bee-powered lights and music, it is also over-whelmingingly beautiful by day and by night.

First conceived by artist Wolfgang Buttress as the centrepiece of the UK Pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo, it was designed in collaboration with BDP and Simmonds Studio and is the first ever British Pavilion to be reused and brought back home. Kew Gardens provides the perfect landscape and ethos for such a piece.

To access The Hive, visitors must first walk through a specially planted wildflower meadow as though a bee returning to its hive. Once inside there are thousands of flickering LED lights that bring the 40-tonne structure to life, while an orchestral arrangement sets the mood. After discovering the bees hum in the key of C, a beautiful, complementary symphony of vocals and cello was composed and recorded to create a calming, meditative soundscape within The Hive. The effect is that of a hive’s deep visceral hum.

More poignant still, the lights and music are triggered by real-time activity within a living beehive located nearby; the sound and light intensity within The Hive change as the energy levels in the real hive fluctuate. Visitors get an experiential insight into the life of a bee colony and as dusk falls, the hypnotic pulse of the delicately glowing lights are truly magical – a must-see during September.

There are also numerous events and activities designed to complement the opening ‘buzz’ of the newly installed Hive including a Pollination Trail; talks by Hive explainers inside The Hive; talks by Kew experts under The Hive and by the Beehives in the Plant Family beds; Kitchen Garden talks by Joe Archer (from BB2’s Kew on a Plate); Bee Films in the Princess of Wales Conservatory Film Room; events by Grow Wild, the UK’s biggest wildflower campaign; Bee Friendly Sundays under The Hive; Family Workshops by Kew Garden in the Secluded Garden and by Bee Urban in Teepees; a quirky dance show for children called GRASS outside the Princess of Wales Conservatory; and Hive Lates in The Orangery, on the Orangery Lawn and in The Hive.

Hive Lates on 1, 15 and 29 September (6.30pm to 9.30pm) are sure to be particularly popular, comprising honey infused cocktails, bee inspired tastings and workshops plus talks from Kew and bee experts. Be there!

Main image: Render of The Hive at Kew Gardens by day


The Hive takes up residence at Kew Gardens from Saturday 18 June 2016 until end of 2017 // Admission included with entry to the Gardens // www.kew.org/visit-kew-gardens/explore/attractions/hive

For events and activities see www.kew.org/visit-kew-gardens/whats-on/thehive