In July 2021, Mizzi Studio, in partnership with the Science Museum, unveiled an organic, hive-like lattice structure, layered with medicinal and pollinator-friendly plants in the centre of London’s arts and science district, supporting the post pandemic recovery of the area and promoting biodiversity.
Mizzi Studio’s Home away from Hive was one of three winners of a competition organised by the London Festival of Architecture and Discover South Kensington to create a series of ‘green interventions’ on London’s Exhibition Road this summer to form part of The South Kensington Green Trail. The winning installations along the Exhibition Road include ‘Algae Meadow’ by Seyi Adelekun and Wayward’s, and ‘Windflower’ by Urban Radicals and Adam Harris. Commissioned by the Exhibition Road Cultural Group in partnership with the London Festival of Architecture, Science Museum, V&A & Goethe Institute and supported by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 and the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, City of Westminster and the Mayor of London, the initiative set out to support “biodiversity and the recovery of London’s arts and sciences district in South Kensington”.
The open call invited design proposals that would demonstrate how plants, green space and biodiversity could be creatively embedded into Exhibition Road’s public realm, reclaiming space for nature amidst the bustle of the capital and encourage visitors to South Kensington, London. Motivated to design an installation that would support eco-initiatives such as the Kensington & Chelsea Council’s Bee SuperHighway, Mizzi Studio envisioned a wild bee’s nest-like structure, Home away from Hive, in partnership with the Science Museum, that would attract insects and wildlife back to the borough, as well as visitors.
According to the invertebrate conservation trust, Buglife, it is estimated that 84% of EU crops and 80% of wildflowers rely on insect pollination. Climate change, habitat loss, pollution and disease are pushing some pollinators to extinction. Mizzi Studio envisioned Home away from Hive as a physical counter to these harmful realities.
Home away from Hive’s design celebrates the complex forms and structures of wild bees’ nests and strives to create a space where people and pollinators can coexist. The timber installation covers an area of 40sqm and is comprised of two distinct domed lattice structures that are linked to create three archways of differing sizes and a circular viewing window, opening views throughout the entire structure.
The lattice intersections create the installation’s system of integrated planters that are home to pollinator-friendly plants, which act as a playground for wild pollinators, whilst the structures curved ribs and honeycomb-like texture provide the desired aesthetic. Inspired by insect-built structures, the undulating and tunnelling lattice promotes natural air circulation and cooling, as well as creating shaded pathways with shadows that move continuously throughout the day to create everchanging geometric patterns on the ground. The largest form, 5m high and 11m long, has a central chapel-like atrium filled with hanging baskets. Inside the structure, plants and dappled daylight pour in to provide beautiful spaces of respite and care for insects as well as joy for visitors.
With sustainable construction at the forefront of the design process, the structure, built by Firecracker Works, is a jigsaw of half-lapped CNC panels of spruce plywood sourced from sustainably managed forests. These were cut from 8’ x 4’ panels to maximise material usage and minimise wastage. The installation was prefabricated in 20 parts, which were transported to site and bolted together within a day. The strength of the lattice structure allowed the team to build almost exclusively from timber, with stainless steel cables used sparingly for extra support. For minimal impact on the site, load modelling dictated that a structural weight of 3.2 tonnes was sufficient to avoid floor fixings. The project is part of Mizzi studio's ongoing developmental push towards carbon neutrality across their projects with the aim to educate and inspire others to do the same.
In consultation with Richard Wilford, Head of Garden Design at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, plants were selected for their medicinal and pollinator-friendly properties to inspire visitors of the Science Museum to visit Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries and link with the Kensington and Chelsea Council’s Bee SuperHighway. Plants include Lavandula Munstead (Lavender), Pervoskio Blue Spire (Russian Sage), Rudbeckia Goldsturm (Black Eyed Susan), Foeniculum Vulgare (Fennel), and Echinacia Purpurea Magnus (Coneflower).
During the day the Home away from Hive forms part of the welcome to the Science Museum with visitors encouraged to weave their way through the archways to the Science Museum entrance. Colourful information plaques feature at different heights throughout the installation so that visitors of all age groups can engage with key messages on biodiversity and pollination and feel inspired to visit Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries.
The installation provides an immersive hive of discovery, education and biodiversity, promoting debate and enhancing the visitor experience.
The free-to-visit installation was in place for everyone to enjoy for three months from July to October 2021, coinciding with the year of the UN international climate summit – the COP26, that the UK hosted in Glasgow in November 2021