Apiarists tend to be very serious about their beehives, but one New Zealand beekeeper took his passion one step further. Roy Brewster (1905- 1978) dedicated his entire life to honeybee hive design, even going so far as building a home in what he considered the perfect (and godly) shape: a hexagon.
Simply put, Brewster was not a man of conformity. In fact, when he began to build his house in 1954 in Westown, New Plymouth, he decided to do everything possible to avoid any and all right angles, which, according to him, “represented nonsense, confusion, and hate.”
Brewster was a man of deep faith and he took the hexagon design quite seriously, believing that right angles were incongruent with harmonious living, “If man chooses square world he readily makes himself a slave to machines and money,” he wrote. “For what shall it profit man if he gain the whole world and yet lose his own soul.” Other writings reveal that he believed that the “honeycomb was a message from God that showed humans the best way to live, while parallel lines built a world of lies and evil.”
Image by Barney Brewster (1975) via Collection of Puke Ariki
The efficient honeycomb design not only served as inspiration for the Norian House (“NoRIght ANgles”) but became something of a life-long obsession for Brewster. The structure and nearly everything else inside and outside the home was hexagonal, from its windows and shelves to accessories like a hexagonal quilt. Even a picture frame holding a reproduction of the Mona Lisa was hexagonal and nailed to the hexagonal wall panels.
Of course, it was impossible to construct the home out of hexagons alone. The roof and ceiling featured triangular and diamond forms, and some of the furnishings were round. When the hateful 90˚ angle was necessary, Brewster made it work in his own special way. The perpendicular crossing formed by where the wall meets the floor was deemed a “radial line to a round earth.”
The home became quite a hit, becoming one of New Plymouth’s main tourist attractions. It was so popular that on June 6, 1966 (6/6/66), Brewster, inspired by “a message from God,” sold the home to the local Tainui Home Trust Board for £6,666.66, a number that best represented the six-sided form.
Unfortunately, after the death of his wife some eight years later, the Beehive House was dismantled by Brewster himself. However, his legacy remained thanks to the city’s Puke Ariki Library, which is currently running an exhibition, A Different Angle, with some of the home’s fixtures and furnishings. Along with various items saved from the home, the exhibition includes several hexagon-heavy architectural plans as well as personal notes that reveal Brewster’s deep religious beliefs.
Images via Barney Brewster and Collection of Puke Ariki