Utopian hive associations

Utopian hive associations

Penelope Stewart, a Canadian artist, has covered a small room with four-inch tiles made entirely of beeswax. What’s interesting is where she draws her inspiration:

[W]hat’s especially interesting about Stewart’s most recent beeswax room, Apian Screen, is that the designs on the tiles are drawn from utopian urban plans.


Fairly early on in her research, Stewart was struck by the frequent use of honeycomb and beehive metaphors in the imaginary cities of Gaudi, Wright, Mies van der Rohe, and Le Corbusier. In fact, entire books have been written on the influence of the “lucid, modular structure” of the apiary on the Modern movement; apparently, Le Corbusier “read The Dancing Bees by scientist Karl von Frisch several times, making extensive notes in the margin.”

Which means:

It’s an almost-too-perfect match of material realisation and metaphor: the organic nature of the vari-coloured beeswax both recalls and betrays its Utopian hive associations; the aesthetically pleasing recombination of the tiled squares plays on the modernist preference for geometric forms, repeated in alignment; while the enclosed, warm, and sensorially rich space of Stewart’s room is in sharp contrast to the hygienic efficiency and imposing open spaces of the twentieth-century planned city.