Weekend Agenda

Weekend Design Agenda | The Hive at Kew

By Rosie Furlong

the hive sculpture at kew gardens at night against a dark blue sky

A magnificent organic shape adorns the skyline thirty minutes south of central London. With a lattice backdrop against the sky and a honeycomb structure, if you haven’t caught sight of The Hive at Kew Gardens, Richmond, near London, then you’re missing out on a multi-sensory experience in one of the most unrivalled garden settings.


The immersive installation has been enjoying its resident home at Kew for over a year now and if you haven’t seen it yet this summer then September and October are the perfect times to visit. To coincide with autumn (that word is starting to pop-up everywhere!) The Hive plays host to ‘Fortnightly Findings’ with special guests and experts who talk about bees and wild pollinators – which is perfectly fitting for a structure that represents a bee’s colony. Fortnightly Findings run until the 29th of October on alternate Sundays – see below for more details.

Whichever way you look at the incredible structure, it’s forever evolving as you move around it. Looking up into it you are met with a kaleidoscope of interconnecting lattice-work. At 17 metres high and 40 tonnes, its aesthetic appeal is more than enough to capture the imagination of its viewer but as it morphs into an immersive structure you realise there is more than meets the eye.

Themed around the lifecycle of a bee, The Hive features an elaborate metal honeycomb with an illuminated dome at its centre. Pathways guide visitors both under and into the metal hive, which integrates pulsating audio and visual effects relating to a real bee hive. As you make your way through the continually changing space, it glows with 1,000 LED lights and is accompanied by a symphony of orchestral sounds of buzzes and pulses. These are triggered by vibration sensors from an actual beehive at Kew, allowing visitors an insight into the moving life of a bee colony. It’s like a representative eco-system for nature and humankind alike. Its main aim is to help visitors understand the importance of protecting the honeybee – a species that has become increasingly threatened and needs to be better understood.

Designed by Wolfgang Buttress, it was originally displayed at the Milan Expo 2015 and then relocated to Kew Gardens for a permanent feature, making it the first ever UK rebuilt Expo pavilion. Located in the heart of nature in the middle of a meadow now at Kew, it seems the intricate structure has found its perfect home.

Fortnightly Findings highlights include how to support bees in an urban environment, so you can do your bit too:


17 September – What’s the point of wasps? Urban gardener and international beekeeper Harriet Stigner explains how, by beginning with bees, you can improve your appreciation of other unsung and underrated insects. Get involved and help wild pollinators – with information on community and conservation projects across London, the UK and beyond.

1 October – Tiny but powerful! A pollinator’s brain may be smaller than a sesame seed, but equipped with a wasp’s nest, live bumblebees, and specimens straight from the lab, Royal Holloway’s social insect experts will reveal how mind-bogglingly brainy pollinators really are, and teach us how to promote their health at home.

15 October – Beyond the bees. Entomologist Lucia Chmurova and Royal Entomological Society zoologist Tim Cockerill challenge the bad reputation of many creepy crawlies. After drawing an exciting picture of the pollinators they’ve encountered, and species they’ve discovered worldwide, they’ll zoom in on the wild UK pollinators that you can find in our gardens.

29 October – Help build the B-Line with Bee Collective who are collaborating with a host of conservationists to create a 70km long B-Line through London to support our urban pollinators.


All talks are included with entry to the Gardens (£14) and are put on at 11.30am, 12.30pm, 2pm, 3pm & 4pm throughout the day.