Urban Beehive Project

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Photo Credit: Nine Yards Studio


Research by: Samantha Miller

Edited by: Nicole Brekelmans

Case study compiled in 2019



Project: Urban Beehive Project

Type of Urban Strategy: Ecological Infrastructure

Type of ProjectUrban Beekeeping

LocationCharlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Date Designed/Planned: January, 2016

Construction CompletedJune, 2018

Designer: Nine Yards Studio


Designers Murray and Stojak from Nine Yards Studio became interested in urban beekeeping and the idea of designing for interaction, education, and community engagement. Located along the Confederation Trail, beside Charlottetown’s Legacy Garden, the project includes multiple beehive structures designed to attract visitors and educate them on pollinators and beekeeping. The project has become a play structure, a sculpture, a garden as well as a tool for hands-on learning. Urban Beehive Project exemplifies how design can provide community engagement opportunities and education on issues that are happening with the environment to this day. The project successfully captured residents and visitors attention and draws people to the site every day. This project is an excellent example of a design that encourages people to think differently about environmental issues, specifically bees and pollinators.


Designers Murray and Stojak from Nine Yards Studio became interested in urban beekeeping and the idea of designing for interaction, education, and community engagement. Located along the Confederation Trail, beside Charlottetown’s Legacy Garden, the project includes multiple beehive structures designed to attract visitors and educate them on pollinators and beekeeping. The project has become a play structure, a sculpture, a garden as well as a tool for hands-on learning (Nine Yards Studio, n.d.). Because the project is centred in the city of Charlottetown, accessibility to the site by residents, visitors and school trips are effortless, aside from the fact that the design of the beehives are eye-catching and provide visitors with an instant feeling of joy.


“Both Murray and Stojak hope the site, located along the Confederation Trail in Charlottetown's Legacy Garden, will help raise awareness about the importance of bees for the Island’s agricultural economy. “"The Island being such a large agricultural industry, we thought it was really important to spread that message about how pollinators help us sustain ourselves," Murray said”. (Neatby, 2018)


Prince Edward Island has a long history of culinary and agricultural traditions. The designers were looking for a project that would be more community based- a smaller scale project that could be interacted with by many people. This project fits in perfectly with the traditions of the island, and it seemed to be something that the designers quickly became interested in and desired to pursue it. They began with the simple idea of demonstration hives, that would strengthen the awareness of the importance of bees in the community. This idea allowed them to conceive of the plan to have interactive beehives that not only provide habitat for bees but also can engage with people on a personal level. The team hired Brodye Chappell of Brodye Chappell Builds as the builder for the project. He had no prior relationship with the two designers, other than his engagement with them through social media. Murray and Stojak noticed that he was continually supporting them on multiple platforms, and so they decided to look into his social media accounts and found out that he was a young carpenter working on exciting and unique projects. When Murray and Stojak reached out to him to ask if he would work with them on the construction of the project, he jumped on board with no hesitation. Once Brodye was hired, they could begin finding funding for the project. (Nine Yards Studio - YouTube Video, 2017)


“The Urban Beehive Project was created with a vision to establish a community project that highlights the importance of pollinators and their role in a sustainable environment. We knew that this story could be told in a very impactful way through architecture and design”. The project aimed at providing a hands-on approach to bee education for youth and adults, to show the public how honey is produced and about the importance of beekeeping and pollination. (Nine Yards Studio, n.d.)


Nine Yards Studio partnered with carpenters and local beekeeper Bruce Smith, to help establish and see-through the operation (Neatby, 2018). The team also worked closely with John Burhoe from the PEI Beekeepers’ Association. Burhoe and Smith helped the designers with the development of the project concerning the beekeeping process. The designers knew little about bees compared to them, and so they helped flush out details about ingress and egress of bees, and how to make the bees comfortable (Murray, 2016). The designers wanted an interactive and safe place for kids and adults alike to be able to climb and learn about bees. By building a raised deck with honeycomb shapes stacked on top of one another, the structure acts as a climbing gym, in addition to having maps and infographics of the beekeeping process (Neatby, 2018). The design of the hexagon was to highlight the fact that the bees live and burrow in the hexagonal combs on site, but then they could translate this information into a climbable structure, also shaped like a hexagon but human-sized (Neatby, 2018). The typical hexagonal shape was warped and twisted to appear as an abstract creature and to give the hives a kind of personality. This design idea was executed, primarily because of the addition of smaller head-like shapes that are on the top of the huge body (Murray, 2016). After this design phase was complete, the designers wanted even more interaction and educational impact. They decided to branch out and create a presentational structure that could be small amphitheatre where people can learn from the signage and infographics as well (Neatby, 2018).


The designers were responsible for the development of the multi-phase plan for the site. This plan included the design of the beehives and hexagonal play/learn structure. Although they had help from urban beekeepers, the designers were responsible for learning and applying beekeeping knowledge to pull the concepts through in the design, as accurately as possible.


Courtney, S. (2016, November 01). A Sight to Bee-hold. Retrieved from https://saltyisland.com/a-sight-to-bee-hold/ Donnelly, E. (2018, September 25). Buzz-Worthy Design: 3 Projects That Are Made by and for Bees. Azure Magazine. Retrieved June 5, 2019, from https://www.azuremagazine.com/article/hive-minded-bee-design/ MAKE OUR HOMETOWN BEAUTIFUL. (n.d.). Retrieved June 5, 2019, from https://www.charlottetown.ca/cms/one.aspx?portalId=10500387&pageId=10978883 Murray, S. [Shallyn Murray]. (2017, Jan 2). URBAN BEEHIVE PROJECT [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sd0BZ1SY_oA Neatby, S. (2018, June 24). Urban Beehive Project in Charlottetown expands with addition of educational play structure. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.pe.ca/news/local/urban-beehive-project-in-charlottetown-expands-with-addition-of-educational-play-structure-220910/ Projects in nine communities receive National Urban Design Awards | RAIC. (n.d.). Retrieved June 5, 2019, from https://raic.org/news/projects-nine-communities-receive-national-urban-design-awards Projects in nine communities receive National Urban Design Awards | CSLA. (2018, October 18). Retrieved June 5, 2019, from https://www.csla-aapc.ca/sites/csla-aapc.ca/files/NUDA media release_e.pdf Sara, F. (2017, July 9). Where's the buzz? Demonstration beehives off to slow start. CBC News. Retrieved June 5, 2019, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-bee-hives-legacy-garden-9-yards-architects-beekeeper-1.4194445 The Urban Beehive Project. (n.d.). Retrieved June 5, 2019, from https://9ystudio.com/project/the-urban-beehive-project/
Urban Beehive Project | Facebook. (n.d.). Retrieved June 5, 2019, from https://www.facebook.com/618915841618298/photos/a.653087661534449/690710987772116/?type=3&theater


After the completion of Phase II, the site of the Urban Beehive Project became a dynamic and multi-functional apiary destination within the city. The play structures, sculptures, and garden provide opportunities to educate people of all ages and has become an example of how design can bring communities together and help the environment (Nine Yards Studio, n.d.). The project received a National Urban Design Award from CSLA in 2018, along with 11 other projects from across Canada. The award highlights projects that reclaim and enhance public spaces while addressing problems such as environmental sustainability, urban density and affordability (CSLA, 2018). Also, almost immediately after the project opened in June of 2018, the City of Charlottetown launched the ‘Make Our Hometown Beautiful’ program. “The gardening program is designed to recognize those who maintain buildings and landscapes within City limits” (City of Charlottetown, 2018). The program asks businesses and residents to nominate themselves or others for doing things that beautify and benefit the city. One of the sections in the program is the Birds & the Bees section, which asks for more projects or efforts to save and increase pollinator populations and birds through gardening, infrastructure, etc. (Ibid.).


The designers faced an initial challenge of knowing very little about urban beekeeping or bees in general. They needed to reach out and partner with beekeepers to investigate the processes, and adequately design for both bees and humans. After the launch of Phase 1 in the fall of 2016, the project struggled in finding a balance in the survivability of the bees and safety of the public. “The project's volunteer beekeeper, John Burhoe of Murray Harbour North, P.E.I., removed the small hives of bees for the winter, but many of them died over the winter. In hindsight, Burhoe said, the colonies should and could have been a little larger” (Fraser, 2017). The designers were forced to realize that they have created demonstration beehives and are not necessarily in the business of honey production. However, they have continued to adapt and learn about beekeeping to improve each summer.


Bee habitat loss has gained significant attention in the past 5-10 years. For Prince Edward Island, the importance of bee populations was becoming a topic of interest for inhabitants. The owners of Nine Yards Studio wanted to see how architecture can play a role in addressing local environmental issues. After they began the design of the project, they also decided to start the Urban Beehive Project not-for-profit organization. This organization not only would help them receive funding for the project, but it was dedicated to education. They wanted a platform for community engagement so that they could work with local beekeepers, schools, and community groups to provide them with workshops, information and demonstrations (RAIC, 2018). The project ultimately began as the designers wanted to do more community-based projects (Murray, 2016). Also, Stojak’s daughter is extremely passionate about bees, and that prompted the idea to design beehives and place them in an urban setting for people to explore (Courtney, 2016).


The programmed elements of the Urban Beehive Project are: -sculptural beehive structures that act as engaging public art to draw people to the site for leisure and education -A three-tiered 30’x15’ amphitheatre made up of 3’ hexagon blocks. -Terraces for seating of small groups on all sides of the hexagon -A series of vertical hexagons on the back of the amphitheatre that rises 9’ above the platform for children to climb and sit inside. -Playful grass berms around the structure for children to use to climb on to enter different levels of the combs. (Nine Yards Studio, n.d.)


Fundraising in the beginning phases was a challenge; however, the project attracted a major sponsor during the second phase of development. Murray and Stojak secured a $25,000 grant from TD Bank for the construction of the project. After this, the total amount raised was $60,000 for the volunteer operation. (Neatby, 2018)


The beehives sit on helical anchors that sit lightly on the earth and make minimal impact on the land. This construction technique means that the beehives are very easy to move and maintenance to the hives or the land they sit on can be completed with no disruption on the earth or the bees, and without creating any waste. (Urban Beehive Project Facebook Page, 2016) The design team along with the volunteer beekeepers check on the bees and make adjustments accordingly. The general vicinity of the land that the project sits on is managed by the City of Charlottetown.