'Beyond the Hive' - A Hotel for Insects
Arup Associates has won a competition to design a hotel for insects. ‘Beyond the Hive’ was sponsored by British Land and the City of London to celebrate 2010 as the International year of Biopersity.
Selected from five shortlisted hotels that were built and placed in parks around London, the jury included Paul Finch; Sarah Henshall; Adrian Penfold, Head of Planning & Environment, British Land; Peter Wynne Rees, the City Planning Officer; and architect Graham Stirk.
A Hotel for Insects
Insects prefer habitats that are essentially neglected. Different varieties of insect require different habitats and environmental conditions to survive, so the challenge of designing an Insect Hotel is to cater for as many of these conditions and contexts as possible. These habitats generally consist of the detritus of the natural and man made world comprising of organic and inorganic materials most of which can be procured from waste management or garden sources. The most important consideration is that the hotel will need to be buffered against temperature extremes with humidity maintained for certain species. Most simple insect hotels may be constructed in a very straightforward way from an assemblage of materials stacked together aided by an armature structure, that contains the disparate materials. Stacked timber palettes containing a variety of deadfall and inorganic waste is an example of this approach. As the objective of the City of London Corporation’s Brief suggests that the hotel is also ‘visually engaging and a well crafted object’ and ‘enhances its setting and complementing the garden’ as well as having utility and corresponding to a defined volume, a more sophisticated version suitable for the vicissitudes of a London Park and the more critical eye of the human inhabitants seems to be what is asked for.
The Hotel Guest’s Requirements:
Stag Beetles: Need rotting logs for their larvae to eat and grow in. The design must ensure that these do not dry out, but neither must they be allowed to get too wet. This habitat should be located at ground level.
Solitary bees: Above the stag beetle compartments and consisting of stacked logs of varying sizes and cut bamboo, with ends facing out. Compacted sand/dirt mixed with broken terracotta is also useful.
Butterflies and Moths: A series of vertical slots should be used as an entrance to a dry wooden space that is filled with vertical planes of bark.
Spiders, Lacewings and Ladybirds: A combination of materials can be used here, including discarded shredded shoes; a variety of materials to produce various grades of space, including rolled up corrugated cardboard within plastic tubes.
The design maximises the extent of the allowable volume set by the brief of 1500mm x 1500mm x 500mm deep. The facade of the hotel consists of a series of compartments based on a Voronoi pattern, generating a series of voids of varying size at a depth of 500mm. The Voronoi pattern is found in the natural world as in the rib structure of a dragonfly’s wing and can be generated to conform to particular void size requirements and location.
The Hotel is fabricated from 25 layers of 20mm thick stacked birch wood ply 1500 x 1500 overall that have the voids CNC cut out and loosely bonded together on site with mechanical fixings to a total thickness of 500mm.
The compartments provide the supporting armature and an ordering structure for a variety of recycled waste materials and deadfall that are loosely inserted into the voids. The sides of the hotel are accessible for butterflies and moths and the top is suitable for absorbing rain water through planting. It is anticipated that the ‘fit out’ of the various habitats will be completed as an outreach project, once the main architecture is in place.