The Hive installation in Washington, D.C. © Timothy Schenck Photography / courtesy Studio Gang.

National Building Museum “Hive” Exhibit



“Hive” is a temporary installation designed by Studio Gang for the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. The structure is composed of a series of interconnected, corbelled domes constructed almost entirely from wound paper tubes. The largest of these domes is 50 feet in diameter and 48 feet tall, while the tubes are on the scale of “sono-tubes” used to hold concrete in construction.

The Structure

This load-bearing structure follows the designs of traditional masonry domes; larger tubes exist at the base and decrease in size at higher elevations, and the tubes are laid in a “running bond” via slotted connections to provide stability and allow the tubes to act in unison.

We provided structural design including form-finding, parametric modelling, and finite element analysis. The form, a revolved catenary arch, mitigates excessive thrust and large tension forces throughout the structure. In order to accurately predict the bearing stresses in the tubes, we created an intensive finite element model that did not use any simplifications of the structure. To do this, we recreated a meshed version of Studio Gang’s model that had full continuity at the tube connections.

Adding Value Through Innovation

Our engineers also participated in assembly mockups to validate the construction sequence, along with structural testing of a tube assembly to verify compressive stresses. Structural testing was performed by Columbia University’s Materials Lab.

This unique project, constructed with an unusual material, is a prime example of how we continue to be a global driver of change and innovation in our field.

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