Collage of bee-inspired homes Collage of bee-inspired homes Bees have inspired homes for thousands of years. Huts like the one on the left exist from Ireland to South Africa. In Israel, a geometrical housing unit stands out (top right). In the Bahamas, a sleek honeycomb-inspired apartment complex is under construction (bottom right).

5 intriguing buildings inspired by bees

Architects have been fascinated by these tiny insects' homes for centuries.

The world-class engineer of the animal kingdom — the honey bee — has inspired architects around the world, with a surprising number of structures built to replicate the hive. Whether it's the dome-shaped home itself or the complex honeycomb within it, builders never seem to tire of the natural designs.

"The hexagonal design evokes the natural geometries you find in certain coral formations or honeycombs,” says Bjarke Ingels of the BIG architect group based out of Copenhagen and New York City. For him, the appeal of honeycomb lies in its ability to enhance natural scenery — from the user's point of view and the community. Other architects have found a muse in the usefulness of mound-shaped hives, the compactness of honeycomb and the sheer artistic pattern of bees' creations.

beehive hut in IrelandAn An ancient beehive-inspired hut in Ireland. (Photo: mirsasha/Flickr)

Hive-shaped homes dot the countryside of Ireland and Scotland, dating back centuries. The stone-mosaic hut above blends into the hillside in Kent, Ireland, providing sturdy shelter as well as camouflage. Similar mounds have been found throughout the world, some as old as 4,000 years old. Each region's hive houses were made of different kinds of materials, each blending in to its own landscape. 

Amazingly, these structures are more advanced than they seem, providing an all-natural heating and air system as well as protection from the elements. "Inside, its high dome serves to collect the hotter air, and outside to shed rainfall instantly, before the brick can absorb it and crumble," writes Ronald Rael, founder of EarthArchitecture.org, in an article about traditional beehive houses. Rael also explains that this design also allows the inside of the hut to maintain a balmy 75-85 degrees.

Honey Bee Hive House in IsraelThe Ramot Polin housing project in Israel, also known as the Honey Bee Hive House. (Photo: Nehemia G. /Wikimedia Commons)

In the 1980s, architect Zvi Hecker was commissioned to design a public housing project in Israel. The result was a topsy-turvy geometric design which is now referred to as the "Honey Bee Hive House." The odd structure in the Ramot Polin neighborhood of Jerusalem is comprised of 720 prefabricated units. It is most certainly one of the most interesting public housing units we've ever seen.

B-and-Bee The modular B-and-Bee structure is mobile and stackable. (Photo: © Hannes Geipel/Achilles Design)

The more recent modular housing trend has brought about tetris-like honeycomb structures that campers and music festival attendees can use to add a bit of sturdy shelter to their overnight experience. B-and-Bee's hexagons each contain a light with its own power supply as well as a locker and space to store camping gear. As many as 50 festivalgoers can pack into this space-efficient structure.

British architect Barry Jackson has taken the bee-inspired modular housing trend to the next level with his HIVEHAUS design, which allows people to build an entire home by connecting each individual honeycomb room to the other until the house is just as big as you want it.

It's no wonder that the hexagonal shape has taken hold on efficient design. "The honeycomb is a masterpiece of engineering," NPR science writer Robert Krulwich wrote on his blog. "Compactness matters. The more compact your structure, the less wax you need to construct the honeycomb."

Honeycomb apartments in Bahamas The Honeycomb apartment complex in the Bahamas. (Photo: BIG)

This sleek, modern Honeycomb apartment complex along the coast of the Bahamas uses honeycomb-style design not just for functionality but also for beauty. Created by the architecture group BIG, this residential building merges the age-old pattern with abstract design. The hexagonal terraces each contain their own private pool and, together, make for an intriguing facade. 

From the ancient hive-shaped mounds to modern, abstract interpretations, the bee has long been a muse for designers, and the trend will likely continue as long as nature stirs creativity in the minds of artists.

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