name: SmartSkin research, year start: 2015, year end: ongoing, techniques: biomimesis, 3D printing, sculpture, modelling, drawing

The 3DPrint-project Bee Material, Bees as Architects serves to continue and deepen the research of the Brussels Urban Bee Lab. Bees can be seen as living 3D printers that reach an extreme grade of mathematical perfection when building a honeycomb. Through the centuries physics and mathematicians have wondered how a bee colony reaches this result. AnneMarie Maes and the Brussels Urban Bee Lab want to take up the challenge to work just as constructive with 3D printers and organic materials, as wax and propolis, to make objects together with the bees and inspired by the bees’ work.
The proposed artistic research will happen in collaboration with other artists, both members of the Brussels Urban Bee Lab/ OKNO as other international artists, and institutes and companies specialised in relevant technology and biology.


Is it possible to produce Beehives that are as aesthetic and as strong as the examples from nature? The models in this study are created from iterative processes where biomimesis inspired ideas are explored through the production of mock-ups.
I imagine a world where biological fabrication replaces traditional manufacturing and thus where new sustainable beehives can be generated simply by growing them. The design of such beehives will be inspired by art forms from nature and so I am searching the scientific literature to find the requirements for an ideal honeybee nest and create physical prototypes using smart and organic materials.

A Guerilla Beehive is intended to function completely independently. They are equiped with biodegradable sensors that make distant, non-intrusive monitoring possible. The hives therefore do not need to be opened and bees do not need to be disturbed to monitor the colony. The audio- and visual data is aggregated, processed and shared in real time over the Internet. Solar energy, honey batteries or microbial fuel cells can power the sensors. The whole system is set up as a fully organic project: cradle-to-cradle.
If the bees decide to leave the hive in search for another home, the hive (with its integrated electronics) will biodegrade and compost completely.