Simplicity is natures first step, and the last of art. (Philip James Bailey)
from our made-up correspondent - 06/01/12
In the fifties,the Netherlands was packed with Air Watchtowers for spotting hostile Russian aircraft.
In the meantime most of them have been demolished.
"Hey, Theo, do you want to buy the tower?" Asked a friend of Theo van Duyse from the little village of Nieuw Namen. What would it cost, Theo wanted to know? Fifty bucks, replied the friend.
It was 1992, and the friend was a board member of the foundation that became responsible for managing the Air Watchtower of Nieuw Namen. Nobody knew exactly what to do with such a crazy concrete thing. "But hey" Van Duyse thought, "for fifty bucks why not!". The Air Watchtower in Nieuw Namen is still there, and he is still owned by Theo van Duyse. It is one of the few remnants of a net-work of observatories that stretched out all over the Netherlands back in the fifties.
In the fifties radar was not yet capable of detecting low flying Russian aircraft. That had to be done by people. For that purpose in the first half of the nine-teen fifties 276 lookouts were built. For about half of the amount they made use of high-, already existing buildings. The other half of the lookouts was newly built. This was done according to a standard process with prefabricated concrete elements called Raatbouw, because the elements resemble a honeycomb structure.
Rationale behind the idea was that the height of the towers could easily be adjusted to the characteristics of the surroundings. Often they were built in a forest, or a row of trees on an embankment, used as camouflage. There was a maximum of sixteen kilometers between the towers. This because the human ear can hear the sound of a plane at a maximum distance of eight kilometers. The system was overtaken by technology after only a few years. Radar was getting better and the planes were flying faster and faster.
Now these awkward icons of a forgotten episode in the history of the Cold War will be re-used. In order to preserve these retired military structures two designers came with a (rescue) plan. Their plan is intended to transform the last remaining Air Watchtowers for the public good. Starting with the Air Watchtower owned by Theo that will become the first B-tower ™ in the country.
The designers: "We immediately fell in love with these tower. Because of their powerful sculptural appearance in the flat Dutch landscape. We decided to look for a way to preserve their identity. When looking for a new function for these structures we noticed similarity with honeycombs. Our design is an additive, like a bee nest sticks to a tree."
The B-tower ™ functions as a pollination base and will accommodate 21 bee colonies, a storage space and a small roof garden with dandelions. Everything has been designed from an eco-friendly principle.
The designers: "The custom made beehives are made of wood with a SFC certification. To protect the entrance of the beehives for strong wind and rain, we developed bio based epoxy resin funnels that are mounted on the outside of the tower within the comb elements. These clusters of translucent honey-coloured funnels resemble natural bee nests."
Ones build to spot incoming airplanes, near upon being the base for outgoing honey bees and dandelion fluffs
to traverse the airspace around it. The B-tower ™ will contribute to social, economic and environmental good.
The designers: "While designing the B-tower ™, Dutch media reported exceptionally high mortality among bees as a result of a severe winter. Bees are the predominant and most economically important group of pollinators and with this idea the benefits are twofold: saving these small animals and saving these historical landmarks.
It just so happens that 2012 is the Year of the Bee, what a chance!"
An Air Watchtower was in the '50s and '60s of the 20th century a lookout in the Netherlands used during the Cold War by the Korps Luchtwachtdienst to scour the airspace of the Netherlands for Russian aircraft. These open structures were part of a network of 276 stations across the country, of which 137 were located at existing buildings such as windmills and towers, and 138 Air Watchtowers were built specially for this purpose.
The Central Bureau of Military Engineers was tasked with designing and building the special towers. A tower made of concrete was from a financial perspective, inexpensive had low maintenance costs and was technically the most suitable. The choice fell on a system of prefabricated concrete comb elements, which was developed by NV Raatbouw, founded in 1950 by architect Marten Zwaagstra and NV Schokbeton.
Nowadays only 17 of these towers remain, a few of them have been given the status of military or Provincial heritage monument in 2008.
B-tower ™ CONCEPT
To preserve Air Watchtowers, that are threatened with demolition, by re-designing them into pollination towers that accommodate bee colonies and a small roof garden with dandelions.
The project concentrates on 3 Air Watchtowers at the border with Belgium in the Dutch province of Zeeland. Located in the periphery of the villages of Nieuw Namen, Koewacht and Eede.
The beehives are custom made of wood with a SFC certificated.
The funnels are made of bio based translucent epoxy resin.
The newly installed stairs are made of recycled steel.
The roof garden consist of self-watering turf tiles.
Human activities have impacted the Dutch landscape through fragmentation, degradation and destruction of natural habitats and the creation of new anthropogenic ones.Changes in land-use and landscape structure affects pollinators, target plants and their interactions at individual, population and community levels.Degradation and fragmentation of natural habitats are considered as key adverse changes for pollinator populations.
2012 - YEAR OF THE BEE
Current evidence demonstrates that a sixth major extinction of biological diversity event is underway. The Earth is losing between one and ten percent of bio-diversity per decade, mostly due to habitat loss, pest invasion, pollution, over-harvesting and disease. Certain natural ecosystem services are vital for human societies. Many fruit, nut, vegetable, legume, and seed crops depend on pollination. Pollination services are provided both by wild, free-living organisms (mainly bees,but also to name a few many butterflies, moths and flies), and by commercially managed bee species. Bees are the predominant and most economically important group of pollinators in most geographical regions.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that out of some 100 crop species which provide 90% of food worldwide, 71 of these are bee-pollinated.
The Dutch ICT service provider Nspyre in collaboration with the Fontys University in Eindhoven has equiped fifty thousand honeybees with a chip. Nspyre speaks of "the acquisition of fifty thousand IT workers" and the country's largest take-over in the IT sector ever. The purpose of the project is to gather data about the number of movements and travel time between flowers and the hive. The company therefore has purchased five hives and expects the population to grow to 250,000 bees. With this technology Nspyre supports the research on what causes bees to die. Immediately after its birth the bee is equipped with a tiny chip. The Bee Tracking System (BTS) is an instrument for detailed research that provides data that gives an insight into the factors affecting the disappearance of bee colonies. A sign with a QR code at the base of the pollination tower provides those who pass by with up to date information on the bees.