Teaching people to work with nature

[Image] The Living Beehive, which represents a
self-sustaining ecosystem, is a dome-
shaped structure that draws on
the architecture of a traditional
Zulu beehive hut.
(Image: Kevin Joseph)

[Image] The roof and exterior walls are covered
with a living layer of foliage.
(Image: iKind Media)

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A sustainable architectural installation, designed to get people talking about how healthy ecosystems can help communities cope with climate change, was unveiled at the Durban Botanic Gardens as part of the COP17 climate change conference.

The installation has been described as one of the most stimulating exhibitions at the COP17 expo.

The Living Beehive, which represents a self-sustaining ecosystem, is a dome-shaped structure that draws on the architecture of a traditional Zulu beehive hut.

Traditional Zulu beehive huts, known as iQhugwane, are efficiently-designed homes which use natural and sustainable materials. They are warm in winter and cool in summer, with built-in ventilation.

South Africa needs new ideas to deal with the challenges of a changing climate. This installation shows how traditional knowledge and natural resources can inspire modern innovation to find solutions to climate change.

The Living Beehive was created from a combination of traditional beehive hut construction techniques, modern day materials such as industrial steel, and indigenous plants.

A work of art

The 17-metre wide and nine-metre high installation is a beautiful work of art. The frame was built using high-tech steel, while a walkway through the interior of the dome enables visitors to experience the integration of infrastructure and the environment.

The roof and exterior walls are covered with a living layer of foliage such as forest and wetland plants, as well as indigenous grasses typically found in grasslands in KwaZulu-Natal.

Creepers are suspended in dense mats down the sides of the dome to allow just enough air to circulate into the cool interior.

At the event, deputy minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Rejoice Mabudafhasi said that the Living Beehive is an example of nature and people working together.

“By recognising the importance of built and ecological infrastructure, and by bringing together natural and man-made design, the Living Beehive shows us the possibilities for job creation, service delivery and economic growth in a truly green economy,” Mabudafhasi said in a statement.

Statistics provided by the Durban Botanic Garden indicate that more than four-million rural South Africans depend directly on healthy ecosystems for their livelihoods.

Greater efforts to conserve and restore natural landscapes can provide more opportunities for job creation and the development of biodiversity-based industries and jobs.

A living legacy project

The Department of Environmental Affairs and the UN Industrial Development Organisation jointly funded the Living Beehive project.

The South African National Biodiversity Institute, the eThekwini Municipality and the Durban Botanic Gardens Trust are responsible for implementing the project.

The installation is permanent and will remain in the botanical garden as a COP17 legacy project.

Mzansi’s Golden Economy

The Living Beehive is one of many art, culture and heritage events at the COP17 conference.

As part of the arts and culture offering at this year’s climate change conference, Arts and Culture minister Paul Mashatile launched the department’s new strategy for the arts, culture and heritage sector.

The new strategy, known as Mzansi’s Golden Economy, highlights the sector’s contribution to economic growth, job creation and social cohesion.

The Department of Arts and Culture has also organised a series of events to flaunt South African identity and highlight the gravity of climate change.

The events will demonstrate how artists can contribute to fighting poverty, job creation and skills development, with minimal damage to the earth.