London Without Bees- Ben Kirk, University of Westminster

University of Westminster student Ben Kirk designed this building to replace the pollination of a declining population of bees in downtown London.  The tower emits pollen filled balloons to replace bees in the pollination process.  Pretty crazy idea, and a great way to use architecture to help solve an ecological problem.
SCHOOL: University of Westminster

 What would happen if, as the worst predictions suggest, there were no bees in London? How would flowers be pollinated? 
Here a headquarters in Kew Gardens releases millions of delicate floating inseminators, like artificial spores, across the city. Locally, in places like Victoria Park in Hackney, small repair and collection points work constantly to recycle the proxy bees: architecture to pollinate a wilting city. 
Without the common honeybee, London’s gardens would be unrecognisable. We would miss their familiar buzz on a summers day, we would miss their delicious honey. Less obviously, we would miss their pollination, which allows plants to reproduce and flower in such vivid colours. 
The honeybee’s form is no accident. She is a conspiracy of the pollen bearing plant world, her architecture so specific to the task.In response to the honeybee’s extinction, man must conceive a way to pollinate London’s parks and gardens, learning from her specficity through biomimicry.  
Firstly the ‘Garden Pollination Device’ fertilises London’s back gardens, shimmering like a garden chandelier as the light passes through the statically-charged perspex and acetate covered in pollen. It is designed as a flat pack product available off-the-shelf which the garden enthusiast can assemble themselves. It is suspended from the four corners of the typical London terrace back garden with tension wires, with the device hung in the middle, and predominantly relies on passive wind movement, and the vertical movement of the counter-weighted acetate tentacles, to accidentally brush past the anthers of one garden flower onto anothers stigma.
Following this, a London-Wide Pollination Strategy is conceived, with delicate latex pollination devices projected into the London skies from a headquarters in Kew Gardens, and carried by the prevailing wind to the required destination. 
Once the pollination is complete, the proxy bees are recycled at local ‘Satellite Pollinator Release Facilities’ which strategically proliferate London.These ‘Release Facilities’ act both as workshops to recycle and reproduce the latex pollinators, and as a wind harvester, increasing the flow of air through the main funnel. This is achieved via side injection wind inlets and garden wind cowls, in order to project the proxy bees into the skies.  
Intentionally prosaic in external appearance, the facility in Victoria Park seamlessly merges into the urban fabric, its simple copper mesh cladding enveloping the workshop. Internally, the facility reveals a magical full height workshop with the spectacle of the ‘release’ seducing the visitor. 

Text and images via Ben Kirk (via Dezeen)


3 thoughts on “London Without Bees- Ben Kirk, University of Westminster

  1. The pollen filled balloons look very pretty, but I’m not at all convinced they would work. The reason honeybees are such good pollinators are that they show flower fidelity, with each individual visiting large clumps of flowers of the same species at a time. Balloons floating about in the breeze won’t be anything like as targeted. We would be better off hand pollinating.

    Hopefully it won’t come that, as beekeeping is booming in popularity in London and there’s no shortage of beginner beekeepers. What we really need is more flowers to support all the bees. Too many people are concreting over their front gardens or cutting their grass super short.

  2. Mike asked me to repost this response I left for him on Facebook:

    Umm, I hate to be the biologist here, but this really isn’t how bees work. The individual garden pollination system might work, although it would need to be large and obtrusive to reach all flowers in a garden.

    The proposed tower pollen dispersal system is a purely passive one, operating on statistical chance that some of the carriers will encounter flowers that require pollination by air dispersal (so called anemophilic flowers). Those flowers are also the ones which did not evolve to produce scent or nectar, because they do not require bees or other insects for pollination.

    The flowers that are affected by bee population die-offs are those that require insect pollination, and their pistils (the entire female end of the reproductive system) are usually hidden from the prevailing wind. They produce scent and nectar to attract the insects, and passive dispersal systems would be unable to replicate the instinctive moving of insects upon which these plants rely.

    Taken together, it seems that the only plants likely to be helped by such a system would be those that wouldn’t be affected by colony collapse syndrome to begin with.

    There are a couple other nuances of biology that are missed by the proposal as it’s posted. For instance, “pollen” is not a one-size-fits all insemination device, just same as mammalian sperm’s potency is restricted to a single species, except in rare cases. Thus, any dispersal system would need to carry a massive library of biologically active pollen to have any chance of working. Beautiful flowers would still happen in the absence of bees, because flowers come before bees in the chain of pollination. . . the problem would come when the plant populations were unable to continue themselves through seeds, the ultimate end product of pollination.

    Finally, from a purely realistic standpoint. . . who’s going to put up with a metric ton of latex floating through the air? Based on the statistical and wind distribution strategy, there’s no way the reclamation centers would capture more than a very small portion of the total release. And latex isn’t exactly a biodegradable polymer, and there are a lot of latex allergies extant in the human population.

    I’m not saying it’s not a wonderful idea to think about ways to replace bees, especially as their population dwindles rapidly. But some understanding of the biology is necessary before one tries to build beautiful towers throwing effluent into the sky.

  3. Pingback: UNIT 5: ‘In_Out Crisis’ emergent & adaptive

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