SPACE10, a Copenhagen-based research and design studio supported by interiors-giant IKEA, recently released their smallest modular architecture project yet-a condominium for bees. In collaboration with interior and industrial designer Tanita Klein and digital design studio Bakken Bæck, the Bee Home project allows users to design then download detailed plans for their own DIY bee home-all for free. These homes—not hives—aren’t for honeybees, but the solitary bee, an unsung hero of the pollinator world.
In the past years, there’s been a growing understanding of the critical role pollinators play in the organic ecosystem and how our built environment has either destroyed or dramatically shifted the bee’s natural habitat. Many think of honeybees when it comes to these discussions, but solitary bee species, which range from Leafcutters, Mason bees, Sweat bees and more make up 90% of the bee population.
Solitary bees live alone (hence the name), produce no honey, belong to no hive, and answer to no queen—instead they tend to their work largely to provide for their own offspring, as most solitary bees are queens themselves. Solitary bees can provide the pollination of up to 120 of their honeybee cousins and are often docile as they don’t have to protect a hive or honey. Needless to say, we stan.
Instead of a hive, solitary bees nest in small holes found throughout the environment, or bury short tunnels into the ground to lay their eggs and store some provisions for the hatched larvae. And although they live alone, solitary bees often nest close to each other if an environment is ideal, which has resulted in humans providing their own makeshift solitary bee dwellings.
SPACE10's own bee homes are focused on accessibility, sustainability, and playfulness. Inspired by the ingenious beauty of Japanese wood joinery, a Bee Home is built by layering floors around a central spine, creating an interlocking Jenga like structure that requires no additional building materials like glue or toxic adhesives, which can be harmful to the bees and the environment.
Using the free online design platform, users can customize the number of storeys, height, and base of their Bee Home, then download the plans to take to a CNC operator—a step that encourages the use of local wood and a local business. The designers also wanted the process to be fun and easy, and the result to be sculpture-like, bringing agency and beauty to each future Bee Host. Save for a surrounding wildflower environment, watchful eye, and occasional cleaning, Bee Home requires very little upkeep and can last up to 30 years, making it all the more ideal. (Though please do research what's best for your local solidary bee populations, as inproper maintenance and materials can do more harm than good.)
The Bee Home project exemplifies a holistic approach to sustainable design-taking into account not only material, but access, longevity, source, and aesthetics-making this micro modular townhome a welcome addition to any backyard or garden.