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Bee dwelling wins international architecture award

Elevator B

Elevator B in Silo City on the Buffalo waterfront. Photo: Hive City Design Team

By CHARLOTTE HSU

Published May 24, 2013

“Elevator B also demonstrates how our use of Buffalo as a design laboratory generates globally relevant design research and built works.”
Robert G. Shibley, Dean, School of Architecture and Planning

Elevator B, a honeycomb-themed tower housing bees on Buffalo’s waterfront, has won a highly regarded international architecture award.

The dwelling, designed by UB architecture students, was announced on March 19 as the Jury Award winner in the Student Design/Build Project category of the Architizer A+ Awards. The project was selected from a pool of competitors worldwide, beating finalists from locales including South Africa, the Philippines and more.

“This is an inspiring achievement for our school and a clear reflection of the talent and passion our students bring to their work,” says School of Architecture and Planning Dean Robert G. Shibley. “Elevator B also demonstrates how our use of Buffalo as a design laboratory generates globally relevant design research and built works.”

This year’s Architizer A+ contest drew thousands of entries from more than 100 countries in several types of architecture, from residential to cultural to landscape.

The team that dreamed up and built Elevator B included five master’s students: Courtney Creenan, Kyle Mastalinski, Daniel Nead, Scott Selin and Lisa Stern. All have now graduated.

The partners erected Elevator B in 2012 in Silo City, a waterfront site where a cluster of grain elevators sits.

The project was the winning design in a student competition organized by the School of Architecture and Planning’s Ecological Practices Research Group and sponsored by Rigidized Metals Corporation with the goal of relocating a colony of bees from its home in a vacant building set to undergo renovation.

The 22-foot-tall tower is made up of hexagonal steel panels that resemble the patterns in a natural honeycomb. Within this tower, the bees live inside a hexagonal “bee cab,” a wooden elevator that keeps them protected from the elements. Beekeepers can lower the cab to gain access to the colony and visitors can observe the bees up close through the cab’s laminated glass bottom.

Elevator B was one of five finalists for the Architizer A+ jury prize in the Student Design/Build Project category, which was decided by judges drawn from a pool of luminaries that included renowned architects, architecture critics from media outlets like The New York Times, and the curators and founders of institutions like the Museum of Modern Art and Architecture for Humanity. The project also was a finalist for an Architizer A+ Popular Choice award, which is decided by the public.

Another Buffalo building, Kaleida Health and UB’s Gates Vascular Institute and Clinical and Translational Research Center, was a finalist in another category of the Architizer awards competition.

Architizer A+ award winners in all categories are invited to attend an awards gala in May.

“We are so thrilled by the news,” says Joyce Hwang, assistant professor of architecture who served as a project advisor to the student design team along with UB architecture faculty members Christopher Romano and Martha Bohm.

“It is an immense honor for the Hive City Team to win this international competition, not only due to the high level of distinction of the jury, but also due to the quality of the finalist projects that were our team’s competitors,” Hwang says. “We are very excited that the UB team has won first place in the only category for students. It will be an amazing experience for our alumni to be celebrated alongside many well-recognized professional architects and designers.”

The project has been recognized internationally as well as locally, winning the Buffalo Architecture Foundation’s Pro Bono Publico Award.