Inspired by the industrious nature of honeybees, architect Massimiliano Dell'Olivo designed and built a contemporary version of the Bienenhaus in the northern Italian township of Canale d'Agordo. A Bienenhaus is a traditional apiary, most commonly found in the alpine, German-speaking areas of Europe. Dell'Olivo has great respect for the communal life of bees, and he sees their collaborative efforts as an embodiment of the motto "unity is strength." Dell'Olivo designed his structure to protect these tiny workers while leaving as light a footprint on the earth as possible, using locally sourced and fully recyclable materials on a bed of removable concrete blocks.
A Bienenhaus (literally translating as “house of the bees”) is often found as an out building near a farm or home. The structures are built to protect bees from the harsh winter weather in the Alps, with the wall that houses the openings to the hives usually facing south to catch the sun’s warming rays and stimulate the bees’ activity levels. The Bienenhaus #3 has a floor plan of just 70 square feet (6.5 square meters) and cost only 700 euros to build. It is home to an estimated 120,000 bees, who can produce around 440 pounds (200 kilograms) of honey a year.
Like many traditional designs, the Bienenhaus #3 has a double stack of hives along its south wall. The central corridor of the structure is the work space of the beekeeper, and equipment and spare supplies are stored along the northern façade. The structure is designed to be lightweight and easy to put together and disassemble: Dell’Olivo says two people could easily complete the job.
Apart from the helping hand the shelter gives to bees, its other green features include a wood frame and walls constructed of locally sourced fir, a durable and ultimately recyclable corrugated steel roof, and brightly-colored hive entrances that are painted with water-based paints. The colors are not simply a decorative feature, though, they enable the bees to distinguish their own hives when they return home from foraging. The structure of the Bienenhaus is also highlighted with color, with the supporting elements painted red and the nonstructural elements left natural, the contrast drawing attention to the framework that is a nod to more traditional designs.
Images by Elisa D’Incà and archMaDe