Students Build A 22-Foot-Tall Home For Local Bees

The Elevator B tower is part of a larger effort to regenerate a historic district in Buffalo.

It’s not a good time to be a bee. In the last several years, unprecedented numbers of honeybees have been killed off, and no one is exactly sure why. Some blame commercial pesticides–particularly a new breed of potent biocides called neonicotinoids. The industry, not surprisingly, has rebuffed such notions. Lawmakers in the EU just banned the use of pesticides for two years; the USDA says it needs more research before it can lend its authoritative opinion. In any case, the so-called Beepocalypse, technically Colony-Collapse Disorder (CCD), should have everyone worried.


Including designers. Concerned grad students from the University of Buffalo’s School of Architecture offer their support to the welfare of the nation’s bees with this custom-build hive tower. No, Elevator B, the 22-foot-tall structure designed for housing bees, doesn’t expressly deal head on with CCD and the issues underpinning it, but the group’s effort makes a statement about collective commitment to bee habitats.

The project grew out of a competition hosted by the University of Buffalo and local manufacturer Rigidized Metals–they asked students to design a new beehive for Silo City, Buffalo’s historic district of grain elevators. The top design would replace a large existing hive embedded in the side of a silo marked for renovation, part of a regeneration project for the area. Of the ten proposals entered, Elevator B was selected as the winner both for its inventive take on bee habitats and for its iconic form.

The scheme for Elevator B, says Kyle Mastalinski, one of the five designers behind the project (Courtney Creenan, Daniel Nead, Scott Selin, and Lisa Stern are the others), was the result of significant research on “bee architecture.”

“We worked very closely with a local beekeeper to create a structure that would be favorable for the future occupants,” Mastalinski tells Co. Design. Together, they conceived of a two-part conical structure: steel walls patterned with an array of small openings in a honeycomb motif enclose a movable “bee cab,” a hexagonal wood compartment fitted with a glass bottom to house the bees and protect them from Buffalo’s harsh winds. (The glass pane lets visitors view the bees inside the cab.)

The bees pass to and from their new home through the tiny diamond-shaped punch-outs, while beekeepers enter through an opening at the base of the miniature silo. The project’s likeness to the surrounding elevators is intentional; though far more modest in height, Elevator B’s proportions are similar to their much taller neighbors, explains Mastalinski. “The school and architects in general have always admired the grain elevators–and this project integrates the structures into the culture of our school and Buffalo at large,” he adds.

Elevator B, which recently nabbed an Architizer A+ award, is the first permanent installation in Silo City. Since it was installed last June, the project has already played an important role in accelerating the site’s regeneration program, which now includes free events, installations, and attractions–including a rock climbing wall in a neighboring silo.

About the author

Sammy is a writer, designer, and ice cream maker based in New York. He once lived in China before being an editor at Architizer.