Apparently half a million bees buzz around the area that was fairly recently rebranded as ‘midtown’ – that is Bloomsbury, Holborn and Saint Giles. With such facts in mind, a competition encouraging architects and designers to provide wildlife with suitable accommodation was launched by InMidtown and the Architecture Foundation.
The wild work of three finalists is now on display at Central Saint Giles (that eye-watering and half empty new development near Saint Giles’ Church), and you can vote for the winner. The chosen design will become part of the area’s street furniture.
First up is the Bee Lift, designed by Archmongers and the Buchanan Partnership. It’s a huge construction, which holds a bee hive aloft but allows it to be swung gently down to ground level via a pivoted steel arm and several pulleys.
Bees like to be elevated and many hives are hidden away on central London’s rooftops. The designers wanted to provide bees with the height they love but, at the same time, provide humans with a spectacle and reveal the honey making process to passersby. It’s a bold, intriguing and ultimately very bulky concept.
Next is a collection by 51% Studios that includes a flat pack bee hive, bat and bird box, planter and bug hotel all made from a fascinating material called Barsmark PT-200. It’s waste insulation destined for landfill that’s been compressed into a timber-like material. It’s lightweight, waterproof and even weathers well, turning a golden brown colour in the elements.
Simple and easy to install, we particularly liked the fact this collection had a system for collecting rain water for birds and bees to drink, and also included a rubble tray that the water dripped onto to create tiny pools. Gravelly, brownfield habitat is really important to a host of creatures in London, including rare insects.
Last there is a bee hive, bat box and planter/seat by Jon Ackers Coyle with Growth Industry Ltd. The box looks like a hanging bat and is made from steel with a roughened timber inner chamber. The designers wanted to draw attention to London’s bat life with the playful design – often bat boxes aren’t distinguishable from bird boxes and so go unnoticed. They also designed it to cleverly deflect bat poo from buildings.
The ‘metropollen’ planter and seat is inspired by the old Metropolitan drinking troughs found in Holborn, and acts as a feeding station for pollinators as well as a pretty place to rest weary feet. The bee hive is modelled on a traditional design but made contemporary with bright colours and modern materials, including a hinged coated steel roof.
If you’re passing by it’s worth taking a look at these manmade habitats. Hopefully they’ll help highlight that London is home to a wealth of creatures of the non-human kind, and that wildlife deserves to be considered in the design of city spaces.