Sunday, 4 September 2016

The Hive - Kew Gardens' stunning new attraction

There is never really any need for an excuse to visit Kew Gardens, London, or to give it it's correct title The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.  Every season brings a new delight and a new perspective to this incredible showcase for the world's plants. A Unesco World Heritage site, Kew is home to 30,000 different living plants and 7 million preserved specimens of different kinds of plants.  It is a botanist's dream but more than that it is simply a beautiful serene, verdant park to stroll and picnic and enjoy being at one with nature.
Flower beds form only a small part of Kew gardens
I have visited Kew many times, as it is conveniently close to my son's home, and always find something new to enjoy.  On my last visit I had relished the climb up to be among the trees on the treetop walkway.  This time I was completely entranced by The Hive.

The Hive is a sculpture by Wolfgang Buttress, built as the centrepiece of the UK pavilion at the Milan Expo in 2015. It has been reassembled at Kew where it will remain for just 18 months so I suggest you get along  to see it smartly.  It is incredible.
Like bees buzzing around a hive
17 metres high, suspended above the ground and made up of 170,000 pieces of aluminium , the inspiration behind the sculpture is the role and plight of honeybees which, although they play an essential role in pollinating most of our food crops, are becoming increasingly endangered. From a distance the sculpture looks like swarming honey bees but as you get closer it takes on the appearance of a hive. As you walk towards The Hive you pass through a one acre flower garden planted with all types of wild flowers particularly attractive to bees, their buzzing helps set the scene for your experience of The Hive.

The path takes you right inside The Hive which is connected to accelerometers, or vibration sensors within a real beehive elsewhere in Kew Gardens. These pick up the activity of the bees and are then transmitted to The Hive where they are converted to lighting and sound effects as a representation of the activity in a bee colony. 

Inside The Hive
 The haunting and atmospheric sound track, the work of the band Spritualized, is a combination of recordings of a 40,000 strong bee colony plus instruments and the human voice while 1000 LED lights flicker and glow to show the movements of bees in and out of the real hive. 
Lights go on and off to reflect the movements of the bees in the real hive nearby
 Wolfgang Buttress said that "My approach to a sculpture seeks to frame nature so one can experience it more intimately" He has certainly achieved that goal.  I found the whole experience to be quite wonderful and completely mesmerising, worth visiting Kew Gardens for this alone.

The Orangery, a great spot for people watching.
But, do enjoy the whole of Kew Gardens, there is so much to see.  I rounded out a happy day with lunch at the Orangery and a quick browse in the excellent gift shop. I know I'll be back.