02 April 2015
The Short Answer (TSA)
The “Elevator B” hive isn’t exactly a “new” hive for the urban beekeeper. In fact, the “Elevator B” is an architectural façade for a fairly average beehive. So, what’s all the buzz about?
The “Elevator B” is one of a small group of architectural projects that integrate an otherwise typical beehive into a novel structure designed to attract attention. What kind of attention? Well, attention to bees and beekeeping – generally. These structures have been located in the heart of cities and, in the case of the Elevator B, near some silos (grain elevators).
Honeybee populations are declining worldwide particularly in North America and Europe. Honeybees do more than make honey; they pollinate an amazing number of crops. So, the sudden, substantial declines in bee populations could seriously affect agricultural production.
All sort of solutions to the basic problem of declining populations are being tried. One is the urban beehive. These hives are designed not just for amateur beekeepers, but also for amateur urban dwellers. These hives must be compact and reasonably attractive to the extent that they don’t blemish the appearance of more compact urban landscaping.
The enclosure of beehives in inspired architectural facades and then locating these in major metropolitan areas is yet another relatively new idea. These attractive, eye-catching structures are intended to encourage more urban beekeeping by keeping attractively-housed hives publicly visible. But this type of hive is also intended to encourage both public and large private concerns, like as governments and large corporations, to consider adding working hives to their own architectural complexes.
The Elevator B won the Architizer A+ Award in the Student Design/Build Project category in competition with a group composed of worldwide submissions. But the story begins with the planned renovation of vacant building. Inside the vacant building was a lone, quite active, beehive. With the sponsorship of Iridized Metals Corporation the bees were removed from their old home and the University of Buffalo’s School of Architecture and Planning’s Ecological Practices Research Group organized a competition to select a winning design for the honeybee colony’s new home.
The winner was a tower, 22 feet tall, with steel plates arranged in the shape of the signature honeybee hexagon. The hive is located inside and toward the top of the tower. A mobile elevator lowers to a cab with the hive to allow access to the colony. But even without the cab lowered, visitors can observe the bees from below. The beehive is a so-called “observation hive” with a laminated glass panel in the bottom, which provides an unobstructed view of the bees at work in their new home.
But why a tower? The structure was intentionally patterned after a silo. And where is the structure located? In a place called Silo City – a waterfront location near a cluster of grain elevators. The area is undergoing renovations with Elevator B as the first iconic symbol of revival.
Five master’s degree students at the University if Buffalo’s School of Architecture and Planning, Courtney Creenan, Kyle Mastalinski, Daniel Nead, Scott Selin and Lisa Stern, conceived, designed and erected the structure in 2012. Faculty members Joyce Hwang, Christopher Romano and Martha Bohm were the project’s faculty advisors. Planning Dean Robert Shibley expressed pride in the Buffalo area, itself. Buffalo, NY, the University’s home, worked beautifully as a “design laboratory” to generate a “globally relevant design.”