Supporting beekeepers in Senneville

Wednesday 05 Feb 2014

FARMM students use architectural technologies to help the ecosystem

The b-Shack is a highly innovative beehive observation centre being designed, fabricated and assembled by graduate students in the Facility for Architectural Research in Media and Mediation (FARMM) at the McGill School of Architecture. This project supports urban beekeeing communities in Montreal, such as Santropol Roulant and the McGill Apiary Association.

The project will allow these groups of volunteer educators and amateur beekeepers to share their knowledge and interest in bees with the public while engaging in bioresource engineering research initiatives focused on CCD - colony collapse disorder. CCD is affecting beehives throughout the world and has recently become a great concern, as more colonies of honeybees mysteriously die. Honeybees are the insects most responsible for the pollination of flowers, which in turn makes contemporary food production possible.

The b-Shack allows for an opportunity to promote responsible design as well as the possibility of learning architectural lessons from nature - in this case, the bees. The common fascination with bees and their organisation is translated into a material form, in which units adapt to suit their purpose.

Depending on their location on the shell, some of the cells provide openings to naturally regulate the entrance of air and light; while others being closed provide for the necessary protection against excessive sunrays and rain. The openings on the cells have also a double function as their cut-out inner pattern is designed to create playful shadows and enhance the natural lighting conditions inside the b-Shack throughout the day.

Set in Senneville, the b-Shack will operate as a centralised space for groups to gather when learning about the bees as well as the farm’s operations. As the hexagonal cells come down to the ground, they will generate seating for approximately 12 people, which will overlook a central stage for presentations and demonstrations. Being an observation centre, the pavilion will house three types of observational hives: the feral hive, the top-bar hive and the Langstroth hive.

This structure is conceived as an irregular hexagonal grid-shell, which requires the use of optimisation algorithms to reduce the number of different member sizes and joint connecting angles. The strategy for this optimisation is carried out across multiple steps, which begins with the use of Grasshopper for Rhinoceros as a means of generating an initial hexagonal grid arrayed on a given surface.

Once the structure is built, some of the cells will be equipped with solar panels to produce electricity, which can then be used by the farm's owners. Cells within reasonable reach from the ground will be equipped with a custom fit 3D printed hexagonal planter, which allows the farmers to plant flowers to further attract bees and other pollinators to the farm's crops. All these architectural decisions are firmly aimed at recreating a self-sustained system, which can successfully educate both makers and users on the importance of balanced ecosystems to secure a successful future for our planet.

The structure of the b-Shack will be erected in April 2014 and being a student’s self-driven initiative, the project is seeking funding. Please contact the team via their Facebook page if you have any questions or would like to contribute!


Jason Crow (project director), Maria Mingallon (project director), Maria Nikolova, Naomi Hébert, Kyle Burrows, Emily Baxter, Chloé Blain, Alexandre Hamel, Lance Moore, Nicolas Demers-Stoddart, Sophie Wilkin, Justin Boulanger, Marlène Bambonye, Brighita Lungu, Brian Muthaliff, Farid Raner, Li-Anne Sayegh, Farid Rener, Anca Matyiku, Veronica Lalli, Etienne Sédillot, Kelvin Kung, Sanjeevan Tharmaratnam, Ziad Ewais, Antony Plumb, Theodore Oyama 

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