BUFFALO, N.Y. -- This week, a massive and thriving colony of
bees now living in the walls of an abandoned outbuilding in "Silo
City," the former industrial site at the corner of Ohio and Child
Streets, will get a glimpse of its brand new home.
"Elevator B," as it is called, won a design competition
organized by the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and
Planning's Ecological Practices Research Group. The competition was
sponsored by Rigidized Metals Corporation, Rigidized Metals CEO
Rick Smith and colleague Jeff Eder, who own the site.
The design of Elevator B is described in detail with diagrams
and drawings at http://hivecity.wordpress.com/design/phase-2-schematic-design.
The members of the winning team are Courtney Creenan, who
graduated from UB in May with master's degrees in both architecture
(MArch) and urban planning (MUP); Scott Selin and Lisa Stern, each
of whom graduated with an MArch in May and Kyle Mastalinski and
Daniel Nead, who will receive combined MArch and MUP degrees in
Bees, of course, are under enormous environmental and physical
stress, and are perhaps less well understood than they should be,
although in his day, St. John Chrysostom wrote that the bee "is
more honored than other animals, not because she labors, but
because she labors for others."
The designers say their intention was not only to design a
structure to house the bees, as the competition rules called for,
but to offer a way to educate the public about bee work and its
contribution to our ecological system.
The result is Elevator B, a 22-foot-tall, free-standing tower
made of steel and covered with one of a kind Rigidized®
stainless steel panels that were fabricated by RMC:LAB, a division
of Rigidized Metals, and whose hexagonal shapes were inspired by
natural honeycomb. Inside the structure is an innovative "bee cab"
or bee elevator constructed of cypress and glass, which will
actually house the colony and provide it with protection and
To see their work in progress, go to http://player.vimeo.com/video/42373401
The bee cab typically will be in a raised position so visitors
stepping into the tower can look up and watch the colony from below
through a glass window. The bees enter the cab through holes near
its top, about 10 feet above the ground in its raised position. The
cab can be lowered to the ground to permit the beekeeper to attend
to the health and safety of the bees.
The exterior panels have holes of varying density punched out of
them to allow for an atmospheric experience for human visitors and
to provide sun shading for the bee residents.
The students built the tower in the UB school's material and
methods shop. It will be moved to its new site this week to be
assembled and raised. The bees will be relocated from their current
colony to Elevator B at the end of June.
As part of the competition, four teams of UB graduate and
undergraduate architecture students worked through the spring to
design habitats in which the entire "living body" of the colony --
thousands of bees and a huge honeycomb -- could live long and
The participating teams were directed by Christopher Romano, UB
clinical assistant professor of architecture, and Martha Bohm and
Joyce Hwang, both assistant professors of architecture. In 2010,
Hwang famously designed and built an innovative structure to house
bats and raise awareness of their enormous value to the ecosystem
and of white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that so far has killed
more than 1 million bats throughout the country.
Hwang explains that the competition was a three-phase process
that began with a 24-hour charrette (an intense period of design
activity) from which four semifinalist teams were selected. The
second phase culminated in the teams' presentation of schematic
design proposals from which a jury selected two teams to continue
into the final round of competition.
The two finalist teams presented detailed proposals, including
construction drawings and cost estimates. Elevator B emerged as the
It is one its designers call "an iconic gesture symbolizing the
regeneration of the Silo City site, both naturally and
economically" because the material property of the tower represents
the cluster of material manufacturers around the site, and the
colony of bees are being rescued from an abandoned industrial
building due to be renovated.
Rigidized Metals Corporation has assisted the UB School of
Architecture and Planning on a number of design projects and, in
concert with Smith, has made the buildings and grounds of Silo City
available to the school for several experiments in design, student
studio presentations, project construction and special events.
Rigidized Metals fabricates textures and finishes metals for
use in architectural cladding, kitchen surfaces, panel systems and