Aplain wooden door in a wooden wall in amundane suburbanstreet opens to reveal, surprisingly, a hidden haven. A path, bordered by tall, grass-like glass and steel sculptures, leads past a small pond
and the peaceable sound of water to a white, light, two-storey space. Approaching the Nottingham studio of
Wolfgang Buttress is rather like viewing many of his
sculptures – a gradually revelatory experience. ‘I don’t
think anyone even knows we’re here,’ says Buttress.
The UK-born artist is probably best known for his
multiple award-winning The Hive, the extraordinary
pavilion which he created for the British presence at
the Milan Expo in 2015 and which exemplifies that
journey of discovery, a sense of art unfolding. ‘It’s that
idea of creating another world, a conduit to another
existence, a portal to somewhere else where you can
dream, meditate,’ Buttress says of his art.
The Hive highlighted the decline of the world’s bee
population and the importance of pollination for food
production. Visitors walked at the height of the bee’s
flight through a shoulder-high meadow of wild flowers
to the sound of bird song. They followed a path that
imitated the pattern of a honey bee’s waggle dance, its
unique way of communicating the location of nectar
and pollen to the rest of the hive.
At the end of the path was a light, airy aluminium
structure, 32 horizontal stacked layers of hexagonal
geometry that subtly evoked the shape of a hive.
Based on the Fibonacci sequence, the form was a 14m
cube raised up on columns, almost hovering, with a
spherical void hollowed from the centre where visitors
could enter. With its transparent glass floor – visitors
could also peer up through the floor into the structure
– The Hive was designed as a fully immersive, sensory
experience. It pulsed, buzzed and glowed according
to signals streamed live from an actual beehive in
Nottingham in the UK’s East Midlands. Accelerometers
(vibration sensors) measured the activity of the bee
colony, and algorithms were used to convert these
vibrations into lighting effects from 1000 LED fittings
nestled into the structure.
Light in its many manifestations is an integral element
of Buttress’s works: translucency, transparency,
reflection, refraction, sculptures that glow from within
or reveal secret lightscapes to the curious viewer.
The Hive, originally designed for the UK pavilion at the Milan Expo in
2015, pulsed and glowed according to signals streamed live from an
actual beehive around 1000 miles away in Nottingham