Snøhetta-Designed Hives Make Urban Bee Farming Beautiful

This spring, 160,000 residents moved into the latest luxury complex in Oslo by the world-renown architecture firm Snøhetta. Unlike in most luxury homes, though, these residents were expected to build their own interiors. Fortunately, they’re known for being pretty industrious: They’re honey bees.

Vulkan Beehive is a rooftop bee colony in the middle of the city, designed to make Oslo a little more hospitable to flying insect friends. Snøhetta’s wooden beehives (honey-colored, of course) take the shape of a honeycomb as inspiration, a clever mirroring of the structure the bees will create inside.

The hives were built on the roof of Mathallen, an upscale food market that opened two years ago as part of a larger revitalization effort for a once-industrial neighborhood on the banks of the Akerselva river in central Oslo. The food hall sells local goods, including honey, creating a symbolic link between food production and supply. (Though beekeeper Heier Du Rietz doesn’t specify whether Vulkan Honey will be sold in Mathallen.)

The space is also optimal for urban beekeeping. Located directly next to a river and several parks, there’s plenty of pollen and fresh water available. You can track the daily progress of one of the hives, based on the weight of the honey, on the beekeeper’s site.

Healthy bee populations are critical for the ecosystem, and they have a profound effect on our food supply. Bees pollinate an estimated 71 of the world’s 100 leading crop species. For years, bee populations in the U.S. and parts of Europe have rapidly been declining, and scientists aren’t quite sure why. Building beautiful beehives probably won’t solve the problem, but they do provide a visible symbol for the city’s desire to cultivate bee habitats.