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.
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.
Concept design: interactive glass flowers.
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.
Concept: bee hive and perspex frames.
Bee information wall.
Bee information wall at night.
Squint/Opera CGI of the completed stairway in the accommodation block: honeycomb graphics were laser cut in to the corten.
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.
A sketched storyboard showing a bee travelling through the pavilion.
The swarm animations help guide visitors through the pavilion.
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.
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.