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The Beehive Metaphor

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 Ramirez 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 Gaudi, 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 - Ramirez examines the complex ideological, political and artistic repercussions of apian metaphors, thereby enhancing our understanding of the relationship between ecology, animal husbandry and architecture.
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About the Author

Juan Antonio Ramirez is Professor of History of Art at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid and the author of several books on art, architecture and film, including Duchamp: Love and Death, even (Reaktion, 1998).


An evocative work, full of detailed observation, which no one else could have written, or would have thought to write Times Literary Supplement This is a charming book ... Academics are often eccentric and sometimes they are enthusiastic. Ramirez is both ... It is a timely contribution to contemporary thought concerning art and architecture. The beehive metaphor may well be due for revival The Architects' Journal On one hand, the fascination is with the truth uncovered, and here Ramirez has certainly added one more, unique truth to the panoply of truths in architectural history. On the other, the fascination is with the paranoid will itself, with following the author's tenacious, single-minded pursuit of a solitary theme, worrying it like a terrier with its prey...The Beehive Metaphor had me hooked -- Ian Borden, Director of Architectural History and Theory at The Bartlett, University College London

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