Elevator B is an urban habitat for a colony of honeybees, which originally occupied a boarded window in an abandoned office building in Buffalo, NY. Although not created for a specific client organization per se, the project has generated a great deal of public curiosity because of the combination of the colony of honeybees, an interesting and until very recently, a restricted-access site, and a well-designed object. The site, Silo City, is a group of largely abandoned grain elevators and silos on the Buffalo River. Elevator B is intended as a symbol of the site’s environmental and economic regeneration.
The 22’ tall tower is a honeycombed steel structure designed and built utilizing standard steel angle and tube sections. It is sheathed in perforated stainless steel panels that were parametrically designed to protect the hive and it’s visitors from the wind, and allow for both solar gain in the winter and shading in the summer. The bees are housed in a hexagonal cypress box with a laminated glass bottom through which the bees can be observed.
This “beecab” provides protection, warmth and separates entry access between bees and humans. Visitors are able to enter the tower, stand below the cypress beecab and look up to view the colony of bees behind glass, similar to an ant farm, as they build their hive. Beekeepers gain access to the hive by lowering it, allowing them to ensure the health and safety of the bees. This feature also caters to the school groups that visit the site, encouraging children to get a close up view.
Visitors to the site have ranged from school groups discussing the natural ecosystems of Western New York and the Great Lakes, to adult photography classes using Elevator B and the site as a subject. A nearby nature preserve has also led several field trips to the project and is in the process of developing a formal education program centered on the bees and on colony collapse disorder, which threatens the species. Interpretive signage about honeybees and the site is currently under development and will be part of the larger redevelopment plan for Silo City.
The questions asked by visitors range from the simple to the complex, but they would never have been asked in the first place if the visitor did not have the access to bees that is fostered by Elevator B. This is a clear demonstration that architecture can and does do more than serve aesthetic or structural purposes. In Elevator B’s example, it sparks children to learn and adults to reconsider what they thought they knew. This includes the designers themselves, who have not only designed for the needs of their clients but have become inspired to become advocates for them as well.
PROJECT SPECS Elevator B is composed of a hexagonal wood box suspended in a steel frame and sheathed in stainless steel panels.
Foundation: Rough-Formed Finish Concrete: 8’x8’x12” 3000 psi concrete slab. #6 steel reinforcing bars @ 1’ o.c. 12” o.d. piers (4) below frostline.
Frame: Steel Structure: 1½” steel angle and 1” square tube. Vertical members composed of 1½” and ¾” angle. Welded 2” per foot to form 120 degree angles. All other joints continuous full penetration welds.1’ x 1’ x ½” steel plates at base of frame, attached to foundation with ¾“ x 6” galvanized steel anchor bolts, post installed. (3 per).
Skin: 18 gauge 5wl Rigidized stainless steel panels (66). 6 variations of perforation patterns. Panels aligned with grain in pattern vertical and in location specified. Fastened with 2” #12 security pan head self drilling stainless steel screws (12 each) through a ½” x 1½” nylon spacer. Panels separated from each other by a ½” reveal.
Beecab: Kiln dried 8/4 cypress finished to 1½” thickness. Joined with waterproof wood glue and ¼” x 1” plywood splines in stopped dadoes. Finished with Safecoat penetrating oil. Roofed with Terne coated stainless steel flat seamed and soldered.
PROJECT SPECS (CONT’D)
Door hardware: Stainless steel barrel bolts and lift rings attached with #10 stainless steel wood screws.
Glass: ¼” tempered safety glass set in rabbet secured by cypress stop.
Mechanics: Beecab held by steel frame attached at 4 corners by 1¼” #14 stainless steel woodscrews. Suspended by ¼” s.s. wire rope terminated with thimble and compression sleeve. Wire rope attached to Silver line TSSBW series stainless steel hand winch: 600-pound capacity.
Sitework: Gravel stop: 3” steel angle leveled to 6” above slab. Filled with crushed coal ¾” max dia.