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UK's Milan Expo pavilion heading for Kew Gardens

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Wolfgang Buttress and BDP’s much-praised UK pavilion for the World Expo 2015 in Milan – The Hive - is set to be given a new home in Kew Gardens

The beehive-inspired structure was named winner of the Gold Medal in the architecture and landscape category for buildings under 2,000m² on the last day of the world trade fair in October.

During last year’s event more than 3.3 million people visited the pavilion, which also won the international jury prize for the best design and relevance to the expo theme by the Italian Association of Architects. 

Now UK visitors will get a chance to experience the pavilion up close when it opens in the south-west London botanical gardens in June. It is understood the structure will sit in an ampitheatre-like setting opposite the 1761 Orangery for the next two years.

The 17 metre tall aluminium structure will be set in a landscaped, wildflower meadow, giving the impression visitors are worker bees returning to the hive.

The botanic gardens hopes that will help build understanding and appreciation of such habitats, and their significance for insect pollinators. The installation also includes hundreds of glowing LED lights in addition to orchestral sounds with an undercurrent of buzzes, which gain in intensity closer to the centre.

Nottingham-based artist Buttress told the AJ: ’Thanks to Kew the pavilion is going to get a second life. For it to come home to the UK is a really nice feeling.’

’A lot of people were interested in taking the pavilion. But Kew is publicly accessible and its research into pollination is part of what they do. The gardens are a really good location.’

He added: ’And whereas in Milan we didn’t know what was going to be built around us, here we have a borrowed landscape. The same concept in a different context.’ 

Richard Deverell, director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said: ‘We are truly delighted to announce The Hive’s move to Kew, both for its magnificent aesthetic appeal and for the resonance it has with our work – I can think of no better home for this remarkable marriage of architecture and science.’ 

UK pavilion at Milan Expo

Project team

Designer/artist Wolfgang Buttress (Nottigham)
Engineer Tristan Simmonds
Architectural support/services BDP (Manchester)
Manufacturer Stage One (York)
Graphics/animation Squint Opera
Physicist and bee expert Martin Bencsik

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