Architecture Students Design Glass House For Bees

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When designing a home, an architect needs to pay close attention to the needs of the client. Do they need a home office? A recreation or workout room? A master bedroom suite? Or plenty of room for their thousands of buzzing relatives? This last factor came into play during a recent architecture contest at the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning.

The four teams of student architects were faced with a challenge: design a place where a colony of bees and their honeycomb could live and thrive. The bees in question had been living in Buffalo in an abandoned industrial site that was slated for rehabilitation. With bee environments under stress, it was important to find a way to relocate the bees so they could live on and continue to grow.

Rigidized Metals Corporation of Buffalo, the sponsors of the competition, owns a site along the Buffalo River in an area known as “Silo City,” where a number of large abandoned grain silos are located. The site is the new home of the winning design for the bees’ new home.

The winning team, made up of five graduate architecture students, came up with a design that serves multiple purposes. Their design, called “Elevator B,” houses the bees, offers a way to educate the public about the industrious and eco-friendly little creatures, and echoes the silos the surround it, adding to the landscape of the area.

Elevator B is a 22 foot-tall tower made of freestanding steel, glass, and cypress. The exterior sports a design of hexagonal shapes that are reminders of natural honeycomb, and the tube-like design mirrors those of the grain elevator silos that are along the river nearby. One of those silos, the historic “Marine A” grain elevator, was built in 1925 and is a good complement to Elevator B.

The inside of the tower has a bee elevator, which will house the bee colony, giving it protection and warmth. It will also serve as a way for the public to visit the bees and see the way that they live and work by looking through a glass window. The bees themselves will enter and exit through holes at the top of the tower, and a beekeeper will tend to the health and safety of the bees.

The bees have already moved in to Elevator B, taking up residence on June 10th. The University of Buffalo’s School of Ecological Practices Research Group organized the competition. The combined efforts of the young architects, school organizations, and sponsors ensures that these bees will be able to live on and continue to be a boon to our environment.