Nottingham Apiaries

Part 1 - the project overview

The Nottingham Apiary project addresses the problem of collapsing bee populations, upon which humans depend to pollinate food crops. This phenomenon, Colony Collapse Disorder, is attributed to many causes, however there is no conclusive evidence for any specific one. The project aims to restore bee populations locally, with the potential to be replicated in other locations around the world.

the bee
In Australia, bees are already being exported to areas in need of pollination. In this process, which The Nottingham Apiary has used as a starting point, around 5,000 bees weighing approximately 1lb are ‘blown’ into a box by a hand-held leaf blower. The queen bee is placed amongst the workers who, over a few days, become accustomed to her scent and accept her. This container of 5,000 workers and one queen can then be sold as a starter hive.

the making process
The process of the Nottingham Apiaries concerns the separation and re-joining of the honeybee and the spaces they inhabit, and how we can be concerned with buildings whilst at the same time reintroducing bees into their natural environment. The bee is used as a way of regenerating forgotten and decaying spaces, giving them a new use as something that is relevant to the site and the area. It physically creates the correct environment for the bees and will become a permanent habitat that will build up over time, allowing both people and bees to use a place that is currently redundant. The course of the existing warehouse building will be changed forever, given a new use to alter the form of its current rate of decay.

the site if nothing is done
The project consists of four parts, the entrance folly, the bee hive growing and feeding area, the stack system and the queen production area. My work centered on the entrance folly.

proposal section
The entrance folly creates an axis into the building, joining public human space with the opportunity for honeybee foraging and hives. The plaza is broken up, allowing the natural order to develop the space, trees and vegetation are planted within the paving and the water of the River Trent is brought up to the level of the building. A steel structure with a concrete canopy protects the space, creating an ambient light and atmosphere to introduce the visitor to the bee, the process and the building.

the beehive
The actual beehives are housed in an existing derelict building. Part of the interior of this five storey structure is carved to make an atrium, where feeding stations provide sugar solution for the bees to feed on, while the rest is left untouched. Bees like to inhabit dark spaces, and so the deep floor plans ensure this space is favoured by the bees to start their colonies in.

site investigation
The wind driven stacks then act as a blowing mechanism for foraging bees, collecting and packing them within the steel clad tower. The bees are collected in small boxes, which slide along rails from the top of the stacks tower to ground floor level, where they are mounted on a barge ready for export.

The queen making area consists of queenless breeding colonies, in charge of laying queen eggs, and a cathedral-like hatching space for the delicate queen larvae. The monolithic structure follows the axis of the existing building, and workers operate on top floor with visitors below, as in the stacks area. The drama of the spaces is heightened by the architecture, to provide the end to the visitor experience.

Once local bee populations are restored, the process will become redundant, and the site will continue to provide public space and bee habitat. 
Part 2 - the entrance and the folly

The entrance pavilion and folly is a representation of the process and its final outcomes, its reason for being. It physically creates the correct environment for the bees once the process is complete, and will become a permanent habitat that will build up over time, allowing both people and bees to use a place that is currently redundant. The course of the existing warehouse building will be changed forever, 
given a new use to alter the form of its current rate of decay. 

The whole process of the Nottingham Apiaries concerns the separation and re-joining of the honeybee and the spaces they inhabit, and how we can be concerned with buildings whilst at the same time reintroducing bees into their natural environment. The bee is used as a way of regenerating forgotten and decaying spaces, giving them a new use as something that is relevant to today, regardless of their past 

The idea is that this process could be anywhere, in any building, however this project is very specific to the site and the Nottingham context. Honeybees are being reintroduced as a way of looking after the river Trent basin and the old British Waterways warehouse, Nottingham becomes the home for the bee habitats, a pioneer in the field and a working example for others to follow. Site context is very important, as each part of the process is strengthened and joined together the way they are because of the layout of the site and its proximity to the water. Without the existing warehouse building the project would have been completely different. 

The folly is concerned with making habitats that are sustainable for bees both now and in the future, ones that can develop over time as the bees develop, closing the loop of pollination - new flowers and trees - more foraging space for the bees – foraging - pollination. The structure can be physically static whilst life carries on around it, using it as a base onto which nature can evolve and change, building up the layers and continuing the sites story. 

When designing with people and wild insects, ones that traditionally have a reputation for being aggressive and stinging people, it is important to think about the relationship between us, and how close or guarded proximity can make the difference between whether a space is used or avoided. The folly aims to address this, creating a safe distance whilst at the same time allowing both the bees and the 
people using the space to visit happily together. The process aims to educate as well as just breed bees, allowing visitors to experience the outcome of the apiaries, showing how important it is and therefore making it more socially sustainable. The apiaries would be a unique experience, one that should be opened up to be visited, not a hidden away process that only workers get to see.


Bees only make their hives in certain spaces, away from bright light, noise and large spaces. They prefer dark, contained internal spaces, that are well ventilated and easy to enter and exit. As a constant brood comb temperature is required, they must be able to dispel numbers from the hive when required, sending the bees out foraging, preferably close to home. Studies have shown that the healthiest bees forage 
within 2 miles of their hives, visiting the biggest variety of pollen filled plants and flowers. For this reason, being able to build their homes near to where they feed is very important for the colony, and the entrance folly aims to help with this. 

Life and nature are already creeping back into the site, decaying the concrete and tarmac, marking the surfaces of the man-made extrusions on the earth and continuing the story of the materials that they are made from. The site is still being shaped and becoming something other than what it has been, something that maybe was not expected. The folly aims to carry this on, allowing nature to take back what it has given for human use, providing a base for nature to expand. The site is appropriate because it has arisen out of an intrinsic law of development, it is constantly developing and changing, allowing processes to take place. The idea therefore of re-establishing bee colonies in a site such as this bears witness to this creative energy, in all its roughness.

The folly will therefore also have such an architectural temporality. The idea that each moment only happens once is reflected in both the structural form and the way in which it is occupied. The aim is to create something that can develop and change but could also be taken away just as easily, the materiality is important for the development of the site. This reflects the bees situation in the world, creating space 
that surrounds the visitor with this fact enhances the message and allows the space to develop as a sustainable environment that is used by people and animals, and most importantly, grounds us in the site and allows the natural development of the process to happen.

The installation
The entrance idea stems from one of the first investigations undertaken for the project, the installation. It related specifically to the very beginning of the video, where the bee is happy and healthy in its environment, no threats have arisen and there is sufficient habitat for the survival of the species. It aims to represent this literally as well as symbolically, without making the space into a museum. The space is 
related to the human scale, therefore creating accessible moments that can be related to easily and clearly. This becomes the beginning and the end of the process, allowing these habitats to survive and regenerate and in turn let the honeybee survive and increase in numbers. 


- noun 
1. A thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system’s thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work, often interpreted as the degree of 
disorder or randomness in the system 
2. Lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder 

To start looking at the specific site in terms of bee inhabitation and the reuse of derelict buildings, the idea of entropy was discussed and observed in relationship to the existing materials on site. The idea is that everything tends from order to disorder in a closed system, it always increases until it is released. As the site itself is unused, it has slipped into the closed system, rotting and therefore being more 
susceptible to further deterioration. 

The scheme looks at the idea that this can be broken by introducing bees, therefore releasing this energy into a different course, changing the future of the site. The bees break the path of the decay, as their hives and the plants they forage in have different affects on the spaces. The folly looks at the idea that this should be allowed to happen all around it, habitats should be able to grow, the building should be able to deteriorate more if that is their natural course. There is no effort to stop movement and change happening, it is supporting this natural process, and in the meantime creating dynamic interesting spaces for both people and bees. It is not a clinical space, roughness is allowed. The site is progressing with the bee, whilst the folly supports this process, providing a solid base that will still be there when the manufacturing side of the process ends. It will close the circle itself by altering the course of decay. Entropy can still happen, just in a more controlled way. 

wax on timber

The site - the warehouse platform 
The site of the folly occupies the area to the north of the warehouse, fronting the basin to the west and the site of the chicken farm to the east. It is the first point that you come to from the site entrance along the raised walkway. Due to the fact that the warehouse used to be serviced by the train system, there is a metre-high platform all the way around the landlocked side of the building, and extending to the north on which a low quality extension occupies. This creates a base on which the pavilions and the folly must occupy, as the entrances to the warehouse and the rest of the process is at this level. This landing becomes an important point of reference, it becomes a clearing by conferring orientation and giving the sense that something new is about to begin. It is making a natural base on which the proposal will 
build upon to make people stop and think about what they are about to see, and therefore how they will react to the space and the events that occur. 

existing warehouse

The use of the platform is the first stage at which the difference between the instability of the site and the stability of the new structure can be emphasised. As the site has a topographical inheritance in its nature, an architectural possibility is immediately opened up, suggesting as to how the space is treated. The fact that the platform is raised automatically keeps things at a distance, you are less grounded and closer to 
the nature of the bees. It increases the proximity to the bees, allowing a relationship with them and the process that they are going through to be clearer, a suitable entrance for the adventure into the rest of the building. 

Structural language 
The main frame structure of the folly, incorporating the pavilions, takes a very lightweight steel approach, one that allows a temporality in structure but is still static in physical presentation. It is a space happy to wait for events to occur, it has a receptiveness that allows the bees and the nature of the space to change and develop over the time of day, week and year. 

The structure is also standardised in size, with, in relative terms, temporary fixings within most of the frame. This would allow it to move, be taken elsewhere to fulfill the same function on a new site if required. The space forever changing and evolving, all that the folly is doing is providing a base onto which this can occur. As the bees become stronger in health and number the structure would be able to be expanded if required, it is fixed but only at this moment in time. At any point its future could be altered to fit the purpose of the time in which it is required. Nature is let back into the site without the site giving into her again. The balance between man-made usable space and insect havens is considered. 

At some time, as the existing building continues to decay, this would become the only thing that is left. The juxtaposition of the strong structural frame and the ever changing site enhances the message that the bees are not just going to carry on as they currently are, they need some help to survive but in return something exciting and worthwhile is created. 

Continuing growth
The continual decay of the man-made aspects of the site is contrasted with the growth of nature over the area, replacing what was once a much more static space with something that is ever changing. The new insertions sit lightly on the platform, with paving and seating built into the slope of the ground. This is left so that vegetation can still grow through, nothing is blocked or restricted, and the bee habitats are 
enhanced by the variety of foliage and groundcover. 

The continual growth of the site is also allowed within the foliage and the naturally germinating moss and vegetation over the ground. Initial planting would be undertaken within the site, however as the process is not static, as bees and human life is not, it would build up over time, becoming less and less planned and rigid, and more diverse. 

The design has 6 main elements that all connect via the existing 
platform and link into the warehouse building. These are: 
• The avenue 
• The natural garden 
• The pavilions 
• The steps down to the water 
• The structural frame 
• The bee inhabited upper frames. 

All of the elements build up to form a plaza with seating and planting, making inhabitable space for the workers from the surrounding area, the visitors to the apiary and chicken farm and for the bees themselves. 

The space is articulated around the central frame, a static element that provides a base for the vegetation and foliage to attach to and grow, developing the space. It is constantly changing and reforming, growing as the existing warehouse building deteriorates. 

structural axonometric

The plan 
The plan is made up of the articulation of the ground plane and the insertion of the structure into this. The structure pierces the existing artificial platform, landscaped towards the building so that the space is easily accessible from the surrounding area, drawing people towards the water whilst at the same time raising them upwards and into the folly. The structure itself is driven into the ground, sitting upon it but 
firmly rooted within the place. It is connecting the user to the site and to the process, but still suggesting that this is not it’s permanent state, but merely what it is in the present time. 

On the plaza level there is an avenue leading you up into the building, and underneath the folly structure. This splits up the two pavilions, creating two separate but linked spaces, allowing a more gradual lead up into the building. The space is ordered - there is a definite route through but there are stopping points to allow breaks, relaxation and contemplation. 

The foliage and vegetation starts off at the very north of the site in a very loosely planned form, akin to the group installation in its early stages. The rhythm of the site is therefore much less ordered and more natural as you enter it, it is an exploration through the space to get to the manufacturing process within. As you move under the pavilions the vegetation is more sparse and more ordered, allowing bees to forage here but making it less likely. This is more a space for the human users, allowing a greater level of distance for when lunch is required and bees are not welcome. 

There is also a second axis that leads down to the water level along the side of the building, connecting the plaza with the basin. This allows a relationship with the water and its affects on the space, creating a different view of the place and making more options for human habitation slightly further from bee foraging ground. 

basin water level plan

ground level plan

structural level plan

canopy level plan

Structural build up over time 
The steel framed structure pierces into the bottom of the basin on the basin side, rooting it permanently in its place. It is a reference back to traditional harbour walls and how they were formed and structurally enhanced by the wooden struts that led down into the water. This helps to stop the deteriorating platform on which the structure sits, providing extra stability whilst still allowing the ground level to decay as naturally as possible.

The build up over time of the vegetation and the steel structure, canopy and the bees themselves is juxtaposed with the deterioration of the rest of the building and surrounding site. When the process of manufacturing bees is no longer required, the folly accommodates what is needed to allow the space to still be a usable habitat. Growth can happen and it will build up into a new environment to carry on the 
evolution of the place, and allow the bees to grow within healthy habitat that they will help to sustain.

structural frame
The pavilions are designed as they are to provide shade and stopping places for people using the space, and to allow plants and small trees to grow within. The roof structure is made up of concrete fins at the correct depth to keep out the direct sunlight disliked by the bees, creating an ambient environment within a seemingly light structure, protecting and allowing interaction at the same time. Where light comes in bees will automatically not stop there - the seating and human occupation can be made to feel more secure, without physically separating them from the bees.

light studies

Pavilion entrance
The paving bleeds out into the broken up groundcover of the platform, blurring the boundary of open space and space underneath the canopy. It is a semi-internal space, with the external garden connecting directly to it. To the left the avenue leads the visitor up and into the building, whilst in the centre the pavilion creates space to sit and relax, all the time surrounded by the presence of the bees and their habitat. 

canopy entrance
Beneath the canopy there is space to sit and relax, surrounded by natural habitat, a calm space connected to the river basin as well as the rest of the site. The space is softly lit but allowing some sun in to animate different areas. The paving is articulated to create seating, taken away to let plants and trees grow and placed up to the avenue walkway to create a separation between the two activities.

under the canopy

Sunken steps
The avenue leads down to the water, flooding is allowed to occur, the building accepts the changes and responds. New space is created within the structure that is constantly there, the dynamics and acoustics change with every movement. The water is accessible, proximity to the bees is greater and therefore the feeling is of greater safety. The space is embracing all elements of its make-up.

water level

The proposal
pavilion from the water

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