The Hive Installation


Wolfgang Buttress designed the multi-award winning Hive Installation; to integrated science and art to explore our dependence on pollinators such as bees. As a result, achieved by creating a multi-sensory experience to encapsulate the story of the honey bees. The 17m high structure gave insight into their lives. 169,300 aluminium bars joined at spherical nodes to formed the abstracted, honeycomb-like hexagons that spiral into the sky. 1000 LED lights and small speakers amplify ‘bee music’. 150 samples of music in Key C achieved this.  These play in response to the bee vibrations via a live feed from a nearby hive.

The Hive originally formed the focal point of the UK Pavilion site at the 2015 Milan World Expo. The structure won a total of 20 awards ranging from ‘Best Lighting Design’ to ‘Best Pavilion Architecture Award 2015’. The Hive moved to a new location in London following its success in Milan. The new set design provided a broad wildflower meadow which kept with the theme of pollinators and bees.

Jim Marshall, the ground worker, hired the main contractor (Stage One) contacted Enviromesh. This was to create and build the surrounding land based on the architects designs for the new Hive location. Enviromesh designed, supplied and installed three different gabion solution. This included a gabion amphitheatre, gabion benches and a reinforced earth solution which would allow for vegetation growth on top. Due to the timescale of the project and the ability to complete the installation by the deadline date; as a result, gave Enviromesh the ability to win the project. The quick turnaround time of the designs also contributed to Enviromesh securing the contract.


The design brief presented the initial challenge, partly because of the complexity of the reinforced earth designs and perhaps more critically, the required turnaround. Consultation with Enviromesh happened some way into the planning process, which meant getting up to speed quickly. Realising the artist’s vision in practical engineering terms was the singularly most important aspect of this project. However, the proposed design solution could only proceed following the scrutinisation and approval of the designs by the architects.

The sloped, reinforced earth embankment surrounding the structure, would need to fit the overall brief; not only from a design perspective but also from a structurally supportive standpoint. The Enviroslope system would additionally be subject to the load bearing of the footbridge used by visitors entering the upper level of The Hive.

A significant amount of time and thought was applied to designing and planning. The advantage of this approach; whilst time-consuming, meant that once the work had started, the fast pace of the project could be maintained. Ultimately the project’s objective was to realise the artist’s vision and to ensure Wolfgang Buttress would be satisfied with the final sculpture and its setting.

The Hive was constructed above a circular amphitheatre (inner radius: measuring 8 metres and the outer radius, 13 metres).

The amphitheatre comprised an inner circular seating area of an 8m radius. Formed from a series of adjacent gabion baskets with a profiled timber-slatted surface set on top, to provide seating.


The client requested an integrated reinforced earth solution for a number of reasons:

  • Stabilise the embankment around The Hive,
  • Provide a solid foundation for the public footbridge above the embankment,
  • Provide an effective growing medium for a wildflower meadow to be planted on the surrounding slopes; once the soil had been reinstated.

The Enviroslope solution would address all of these requirements in one very effective package.

The ground levels within the amphitheatre and behind the circular seating area rose from zero at the entrance; to a total height of 4.75 metres at the outer radius. The highest point of elevation provided the footing for one end of the walkway/footbridge between the top of the sloped embankment and the upper level of the exhibit. As a result, the design of the earth retained embankments took into account the foundation loadings from the footbridge. At its maximum height, the embankment holding the footbridge resulted in a variable slope angle of between zero and 45°; to either side of the entrance to the amphitheatre.

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