Location: Canada, Charlottetown
Photographs: Tamzin Gillis
The Urban Beehive Project was created with a vision to establish a community project that highlights the importance of pollinators and their role in a sustainable environment. We knew that this story could be told in a very impactful way through architecture and design.
The project features demonstration bee hives that encourage a hands-on-approach to bee education, allowing the public to see how honey is being produced and to learn about pollination and the industry of beekeeping. The hives are housed in Charlottetown’s largest Urban Garden – the PEI Farm Centre – which hosts a range of agriculture and community-related activities. This is an ideal setting for a landscape that offers plenty of bee-friendly pasture as well as beautiful vistas for visitors who are passing by on the adjacent trail.
The hives are placed in individual sculptural structures that act both functionally – to provide a learning platform for the public – and aesthetically – to act as engaging public art that draws people to the site and creates a destination for bee education. The public can look inside the two windows (one child height and one adult size window) to see the bees working inside the plexiglass hive. They can also watch the bees exit and enter the hive at the bee landing pad as they bring the pollen into the working hive. The hives are constructed with wood, a locally available, sustainable material and are secured in place by helical anchors that make minimal impact on the land.
Plan Bee – Phase II of the project, features a three-tiered 30’ x 15’ amphitheater made up of 3’ hexagon blocks. The playful shape of the hexagon allows for a variegated edge on the amphitheater that integrates into the landscape and permits bee-friendly flowers to weave into the structure. On the upper levels, this saw-tooth effect provides terraces for the seating of small groups on all sides of the hex. Attached to the back of the amphitheater is a series of vertical hexagons that rise up 9’ above the platform. The vertical pieces were designed to act as human-size hexagonal combs allowing children to burrow inside a hex-shaped cell – just like a bee. The large combs also act as a framework for graphic interpretation signage that educates the public on the many complexities of pollinators when the beekeeper is not present on site. The structure is surrounded by playful grass berms so children can climb up into the combs at different levels.
The Urban Beehive Project has created a dynamic and multi-functional apiary destination in Charlottetown. The project has become a play structure, a sculpture, a garden as well as a tool for hands-on learning. More importantly for us, it has become an example of how design can play an important role in our community, our development, and our environment.