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Beehive Metaphor

From Gaudí to Le Corbusier

Since time immemorial, bees have been associated with all manner of virtues. The beehive has served as the model for an ideal society, while honey and wax have provided the basis for countless positive metaphors of sweetness and productivity. The natural architecture created by bees in their hives can be said to approach perfection. In The Beehive Metaphor, Juan Antonio Ramírez shows how this lucid modular structure had a considerable influence on the architects and artists who founded the Modern movement. Models from both traditional and "modern" or "rational" apiculture were studied and reinterpreted by such key figures as Gaudí, Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Beuys.

Inspired by his own father’s obsession with bee-keeping – which wiped out the family’s fortune – Ramírez examines the complex ideological, political and artistic repercussions of apian metaphors, thereby enhancing our understanding of the relationship between ecology, animal husbandry and architecture.

Distribution by the University of Chicago Press only to customers in the USA and Canada. Customers elsewhere should visit the UK website of Reaktion Books.

176 pages

Essays in Art and Culture

Architecture: Architecture--Criticism

Earth Sciences: General Earth Sciences

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"His fascinating account describes how the social life of bees has been co-opted by social movements on both the left and the right, and celebrated either for their rigid hierarchies, with everyone knowing their place under the ruling monarch, or as symbols of community spirit and harmonious, cooperative work. . . . Read this book, and you’ll never look at a tall building in quite the same way again."

New Scientist

"An ingenious and entertaining cross-country chase after a swarm of flying metaphors. . . . The pursuit of architectural metaphor is seldom as well-grounded in knowledge of both sides as it is here, and the writing style is approachable."

Building Design

"A charming book. . . . A timely contribution to contemporary thought concerning art and architecture. The beehive metaphor may well be due for a revival."

The Architects' Journal

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgements
1. Rustic Beehive, Rational Beehive
2. Working Beehive, Mystical Beehive
3. Symbolist Beehive, Artistic Beehive
4. Transparent Beehive, Spiritual Beehive
5. Mechanical Beehive, Social Beehive

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