In 2009, the Norwegian capital of Oslo began an ambitious endeavor to revitalize Vulkan, the industry-heavy west bank of the Akerselva river. The ultimate goal was to take an area dominated by industry since the 1850s and connect it to wider plans centered on transforming the riverbank into “Oslo’s Green Lung.”
Vulkan appears to be a continued success and now boasts (among other features) green spaces, event facilities, a food hall, schools, its own energy centre, and Oslo’s first energy class A building.
Recognizing that this environmentally-conscious new space could be used to educate Oslo’s citizens about global honeybee concerns, architecture firm Snøhetta partnered with Aspelin Ramm, Scandic, Sparebankstiftelsen DNB, ByBj Birøkterlag, and apiarist Heier Du Rietz to “bring the bees back to Oslo.” According to the team,
“With Vulkan Apiary, we bring more bees to the city and contribute to the worldwide volunteering to save the bees. In recent years, millions of bees have died – a major concern because bees are among the main food producers in the world. Along the Aker River, in Telthusbakken and around Old Aker Church bees find good sources of pollen and water.“
Taking formal inspiration from honeycombs, the team designed and built these elegant apiaries which now stand atop the area’s food hall. In the words of the architects,
“The natural honeycomb geometry was our inspiration for the form and pattern. Two intersecting hexagonal volumes create the form, which were then adjusted in height and width to fit with the need of the beekeeper.“
Since they were installed in July 2014, the hives have become a celebrated success. The resident bees’ activity and production are being diligently recorded and the statistics posted online. The production has been so successful that the apiarists have been able to sell the honey produced by the bees in the food hall.
All in all, these are unequivocally remarkable installations. Their place of prominence atop the food hall, ability to sustain a lively population of bees, beautiful wooden construction, proximity to schools, integration into the urban environment, and easy viewing from the street all combine to make these apiaries a simple yet powerful instrument in Olso’s marvelous holistic realization of the importance of nature in the reinvention of its urban core.