Buttress, bees and Britain in Milan 2015

UK Pavilion

We recently completed a collaboration with artist Wolfgang Buttress to create a series of digital installations and integrated graphic applications for the UK pavilion at the Milan Expo, Italy, opening 1 May. The behaviour and living environment of bees, and the important role they play as part of the global ecosystem, are at the heart of this spectacular pavilion.

The overarching concept was to show swarms of bees with intricate details that come in to focus as visitors get closer. This process of discovery has been applied to every aspect of the visitor journey from the etched wooden and corten information points to the small intimate screens located around the orchard showing playful animations of bees.

Branding and graphic identity

At the early stage of the project we applied a graphic identity to a host of potential products; stationery, textiles, products, menus and digital applications. Although not all part of the brief or final deliverables, this process tested the robustness of the concept and its ability to provide a consistent experience as the design evolved. It also fed back into other aspects of the design, generating new ideas elsewhere.

UK Pavilion branded products

Graphic identity applied to a poster, book, beer mats, invitation, record sleeve and vinyl.

Concept designs for interactive exhibits

At concept stage we explored the idea of using tiny glass flowers containing a speaker, small screen, a vibration device and a magnified preserved honey bee.

UK Pavilion branded products


 Concept design: interactive glass flowers.

Applied graphics

Perspex frames containing information about bees and British industry are attached to a wooden information wall containing small nest cells which are lit up at night creating an illuminated swarm effect.

UK Pavilion information frames


UK Pavilion information framesConcept: bee hive and perspex frames.

UK Pavilion information frames

Bee information wall.

UK Pavilion information frames at night

Bee information wall at night.

UK Pavilion accomodation block CGI

Squint/Opera CGI of the completed stairway in the accommodation block: honeycomb graphics were laser cut in to the corten. 

UK Pavilion wayfinding

An elevation of the accommodation block with signage and wayfinding.

Playful animations and intimate visuals

To minimise the impact on the natural beauty of the orchard the animations were displayed on small intimate screens viewed through perforations in the timber walls and corten cut outs. 

UK Pavilion animations

A sketched storyboard showing a bee travelling through the pavilion.

The swarm animations help guide visitors through the pavilion.

UK Pavilion screens at night

Small screens mimick the pattern of a swarm.

The bone conduction device

Bees communicate through vibrations rather than sound and to mimic this, we designed a bespoke bone conduction device: the visitor places one end of a small stick into the device and bites down on the other. Interpolated recordings of the bees communicating are conducted through vibrations directly from the stick to the visitor’s inner ear.

UK Pavilion bone conduction device


UK Pavilion bone conduction device

Prototype bone conduction device.


Wolfgang Buttress / UK Pavilion artist and creative lead.

Stage One / Manufacture + Construction.

BDP / UK Pavilion architects, landscape architects and environmental engineers.

Dr. Martin Bencsik / Physicist and bee expert.

Tristan Simmonds (Simmonds Studio) / UK Pavilion structural engineers.

Squint/Opera / Creative agency.

Post your comment

No one has commented on this page yet.


1-5 Vyner Street

London, E2 9DG

United Kingdom

T: +44 20 7978 7788



De la Bere House

Bayshill Road


GL50 3AW

T: +44 1242 515320


New York

273 Grand Street

Unit 3 West

New York

NY 10002

T: +1 646 850 4489



Office 1105

Marina Plaza Building 

P.O.Box: 26917

Dubai, UAE

T: +971 43 392 755

T: +971 56 282 0770