06 May Bee Home for solitary bees
We have asked Bakken & Baeck to tell introduce us to the project Bee Home, a collaboration between them, designer Tanita Klein and SPACE10. Bee Home is a digital platform that makes it easy for everyone to create a sanctuary for the most vital living species on our planet: solitary bees.
For People and Planet
Bees, and the service they provide, are essential to life on this planet. These animals are a vital part of our ecosystem and have been shaping our natural environment for millions of years. But now, because of human impact, their place in this world is threatened.
Bee Home explores how design can inspire people to solve this global challenge in a playful and accessible way. Through a digital platform that allows anyone to design, customise, and download their own Bee Home, the designers hope to offer a vision of how democratic design can help rebalance our relationship with the planet.
Begin designing your own Bee Home at http://beehome.design
The Importance of Pollination
Bees are essential for life on our planet. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations(FAO), nearly 90 percent of all flowering plant species in the world depend on animal pollinators — this includes roughly one third of the world’s food supply. Pollinators enable a biodiverse ecosystem, meaning that they have literally shaped the world around us. Without the service bees provide, our lives and our world would look very different.
Now, because of human impact, bees are in danger of going extinct.
We’ve unwittingly destroyed their homes and natural habitats when building our own houses, cities and landscaping our gardens. The routine use of pesticides, chemicals and monoculture in farming has resulted in the depletion of wildflower meadows and the disappearance of spaces that native bees once called home.
In order to re-establish a balance between people and planet, we need to start restoring our natural surroundings. Giving the bees back their homes can be a start.
Why Solitary Bees?
Bee Home is designed to house solitary bees — the most prolific pollinator you’ve probably never heard of.
There are around 20,000–30,000 bee species in the world. While the most recognised and talked about is the western honeybee, the vast majority of bee species are solitary. Unlike honeybees, solitary bees do not live in hives or produce honey. Instead, they mostly live alone, and spend their days gathering pollen and collecting food for their next generation of offspring. Interestingly, every female solitary bee is a queen and can have anywhere between 20–30 offspring.
On top of this, solitary bees are phenomenal pollinators. A single solitary bee can provide as much pollination as 120 bumblebees. While the commercially bred honeybee is often shipped across countries to pollinate farming crops, wild bees have uniquely co-evolved and adapted to the flowering plants in their local context and habitat. This means that when it comes to pollination, they are designed to do this job in a way no other animal can.
Knowing this, one single Bee Home could give life to hundreds of solitary bees, offering a link in the chain that can contribute to the survival of flowers, trees, animals and our ecosystems as a whole.
Behind the Design
With the physical design of the Bee Home, the designers committed themselves to an extensive research process paired with a phase of rapid prototyping, ensuring that they iterated and improved upon ideas quickly, fluidly, and with the best end result in sight.
First, they focused on the needs of the bees. Most solitary bees live in holes burrowed into either trees or into the ground. Bee Home is designed with these natural inclinations in mind, made with holes for each bee to store food and provide shelter for the eggs they lay. Everything — from the elimination of glue and other toxic adhesive, down to the specific dimensions of each hole where the bees will lay their eggs — has been designed to optimise how at home they will feel within the design.
Second, they made local fabrication and sustainability the main metrics of success for the design. Bee Home is designed with local hardwoods in mind — whether it be untreated oak, larch, or mahogany — so each design’s fabrication can be as locally sourced as possible. The entire design can be assembled without any nails or additional materials, so it is easy to recycle without compromising the circular design principles from which it was made.
Third, they made the project parametrically customisable so everyone, everywhere, can be involved with the design and realisation of their own Bee Home. Each of the sixteen storeys of Bee Home is designed differently. The modular design allows you to shuffle and randomise the order of storeys, arranging them in any number of combinations you find most pleasing. While the design is streamlined through certain ‘aesthetic parameters’, the Bee Home you choose to design will be uniquely your own.
Lastly, they have made the design as accessible as possible. Not only are the design files available and free for download, but the assembly of the Bee Home doesn’t require tools of any kind. Inspired by Japanese wood joinery and a few tricks in carpentry, the multiple storeys of the Bee Home are actually locked together through a ‘spine’ and ‘key’ system that maintains the home’s structural integrity while making it incredibly easy to assemble and dismantle.
A New Era of Design and Fabrication
Bee Home is a free and open source design that aims to pioneer a new era of democratic design.
This project takes advantage of the newest developments in digital fabrication and parametric design and introduces entirely new distribution methods to enable a fully democratic design process — where everyone, everywhere is empowered to be part of designing, customising and fabricating their very own Bee Home locally.
How it works — easy as 1, 2, 3
Step 1: Design. Visit http://beehome.design/ and design your own Bee Home based on pre-defined parameters. This means you not only select the size, height and visual expression but also define if you want to place your Bee Home on a rooftop, a backyard or on a balcony. This makes the design process fun, intuitive and easy enough that it can be done in a matter of minutes.
Step 2: Fabricate. When satisfied with your design, you can download the design files instantly and for free, which you then forward to your local makerspace and have them make it locally and on demand. On http://beehome.design/ you can find a list of makerspaces in your local area.
Step 3: Place. The final step is to place your Bee Home, plant some flowers and let nature do the rest. Solitary bees make this part especially easy — they don’t overstay their welcome, as they live just four to six weeks, and they are friendly and can easily coexist with children and pets. No maintenance is required besides a quick cleaning every third year. In fact, once you put it up, you should just leave it be.
Bee Home is an open invitation for everyone to give bees the space they need — and to make sure the planet we all call home thrives in the process.
On The Visual Identity
One of the core values of the Bee Home project was that it had to be fun and engaging to use. To make people understand the problem, but at the same time provide a light-hearted way to co-create bee homes and help mitigate the crisis of vanishing bees, playfulness was embedded throughout. So also for the visual identity.
First, they had to understand the world of solitary bees. The designers studied them from different angles and looked at how they move. They were interested in what their favourite flora was and how their nests were shaped. They learned that bees can see through the ultraviolet colour spectrum, which helps them to identify nectar on flowers.
Through the use of microscopes the designers identified the shapes of pollen, and studied the inside of beehives, learning about round-shaped nesting tunnels containing baby bees. To add another element of playfulness to the process, and to uncover various new organic shapes, Bakken & Baeck arranged for a drawing assignment with kids.
All this informed the different parts of the Bee Home identity.
The logo mark is made of variable characters that change shapes. Inspired by the rounded forms of their nests and tunnels, this represents the many solitary bees. It’s also a reference to the three-step process of building your own Bee Home, and, abstractly, looks like a bee from above. The circles in the mark are informed by the golden ratio, just like the honey bee family tree and the petals of daisies.
Graphic Designers developed a custom typeface that also draws on the same heavy influence from the habitat of wild bees, especially arches and rounded corners. As an icon, it was supposed to accommodate for the personality of the service — a bold statement of what the product stood for. From the five letters in the logo, a new typeface emerged.
The colour palette is quite neutral, but has a hint of purple, taken from the ultraviolet spectrum to connect it to how bees see colours.
As part of the visual language, a tool that generates lines corresponding to the bees’ flying patterns was built, as they go from flower to flower. They knew different bees are attracted to different and particular kinds of flowers, and they wanted to turn their findings into something systematic that could help us produce unexpected and playful results. This made us build a generative tool that could surprise us.
The process of developing the visual identity was both fun and educational. It was quick and iterative, thanks to an open dialogue between all collaborators, including close conversations between designers and developers.
In the end, after exploring multiple directions, they made a selection and refined the elements, making it a wholesome and unique identity that supports the good intentions of the project.