From Honeycombs to Highways is a thesis publication that condensates ecocritical research about beekeeping and the industry dedicated to the production of beeswax and honey, through a spatial analysis of human-bee interactions. The publication is all produced in 90-gr Biotop paper and waxed on the front and back to become a waterproof object.

Contemporary Bee Cultures

There is evidence of the relationship between humans and bees since the Neolithic. After the gathering period, this process has been mediated through ecologically-responsive technologies commonly known as beehives.

These hybrid devices designed by humans and inhabited by bees, have been used to breed entire insect societies and facilitate the extraction of substances like honey and beeswax, reflecting the demands of certain cultural periods.

Over time, the development and exploration of different beehives have led to the evolution of contemporary beekeeping. This practice has progressively intensified in the last centuries, particularly in the extraction of honey, resulting in current crises of exhaustion that manifest in the declining global bee health and the current professional beekeeping crisis.

The Framed Superorganism

Sociobiologist Jürgen Tautz describes a bee colony as a complex entity consisting of thousands of worker bees, hundreds of drones, and a single queen bee, that coordinates the production of an external reproductive organ.

Attached hermetically to the top of a cavity, the honeycomb “organ” grows downward in a size dictated by the colony’s storage needs of brood and honey. The shapes guide hot and cold air currents to maintain this produced organ at 35 degrees, similar to the body temperature of mammals.

In modern beekeeping, specific technologies are employed to facilitate the manipulation of honeycombs, deconstructing the adaptive organ into frames and violating its heat and scent retention principles. With its top opening, the modern hive dissipates the heat generated by the buzzing of bee bodies, powered by their own honey.

Disruption in Nectar Pastures

The modern hive transformed beekeeping into an economically viable activity but had to adhere to principles of scalability to be profitable. Today, commercial beekeeping operations often consolidate hundreds of colonies within a single apiary.

These “hypercolonies” undergo transhumance, moved constantly in search of flowering pastures. Honeybees quickly monopolize pollen resources, leaving native pollinators without sufficient nectar and therefore hindering the reproduction of some endemic plant species.

The necessary concentration of colonies for professional beekeeping has trained and shaped Apis Mellifera and other subspecies to be feral pollen gatherers across territories, showing an example of the undeniable intertwining between human economy and pollination ecologies.

The Quiet Queen

In today’s apiaries, queens are bred and chosen to enhance specific biological traits that favor the economy of beekeeping. Usually, selective breeding is practiced to reduce swarming tendencies, which means bees are more likely to focus their efforts on honey production. However, swarming is the main reproductive instinct of a bee colony, it multiplies its survival chances by establishing new hives and regenerating honeycomb free of impurities and parasites.

Matter: Beeswax
Type: Research
Project: Critical apiculture

Pablo Bolumar Plata is a designer and researcher focused on the transformation of material environments.

Trained in industrial design engineering and geo-design, his work studies the ecologies of matter and proposes interventions through products, processes, and spatial installations.

Exhibitions

[DOSMILVINT-I-U]V[DOSMILVINT-I-TRES] = 1 ENCUENTRO at IVAM, 2023
Contemporary art exhibition result of the first edition of the art and context program of the museum in Valencia, Spain.

44cm at Nave Seis, 2023
Collective exhibition where ten different design authors reinterpreted the height of a stool in Barcelona, Spain.

Lugar Usual, 2023
Emergent design exhibition in Madrid, Spain

Transforming the stone at Mármoles Covarrubias, 2023
Site-specific lighting installation made of marble for the patio of the family house owner of the company in Guadalajara, México.

Panal at Lugar Usual, 2023
Art exhibition during Feria Maco in Ciudad de México, México.

Blanda y peluda: intercambios en el espacio museístico at IVAM, 2022
Public exchange of ideas about the museum space with TAKK Architecture, Miguel Leiro, and Marina Povedano, curated by Julia Castego and Ali A Maderuelo in Valencia, Spain.

Residency at Boisbuchet, 2022
Exhibition of three site-specific lighting installations at the Shigeru Ban Pavillion, the tree cluster near the beehives, and the Chateau of the Domaine supported by Acción Cultural Española in Lessac, France.

Ací fem atovons at Sala Fernando Barrachina, 2022
Curatorial showcase about the local ceramic brick industry in Foios, Spain.

It will follow at Carlota Oyarzun, 2022
Emergent design exhibition in a residential space in the center of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Lugar Usual, 2021
Emergent design exhibition in Madrid, Spain.

Espam 2 at Colector, 2019
Young contemporary art and design exhibition in Valencia, Spain.

RDS 6.0 at Centre de Artesanía de la Comunitat Valenciana, 2017
Object exhibition about gastronomic design in Valencia, Spain.

Teaching

Materials and processes at Product Design MA at IED, 2023
Design and execution of a course about the logic of materials, their behaviors, the processes to transform them, and their industries. Each student developed a product proposal based on small-scale processes in Madrid, Spain.

Hidrobricks with Laia Amigó Ayats at Mayrit Bienal, 2022
A one-day workshop about water irrigation systems with ceramic samples from Ceràmica Cumella for Mayrit Bienal in Madrid, Spain.

Estiu Urbá with Vicent Orts at Ajuntament de Foios, 2021
Design and execution of a summer camp program about design and sustainable practices in Valencia, Spain.

Press

IVAM in ABC, 2023
Participation in the Art and Context program of the IVAM in Valencia, Spain.

Carlota Oyarzun in RUM, 2022
Beeswax Bubble featured in Carlota Oyarzun Gallery in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Pablo Bolumar on AD Magazine, 2020
Article about the relationship of materials and processes in my design work with the farming environment where I was raised.

Pablo Bolumar on Raïm, 2019
The importance of photography in my visual research and design approach.