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The Beehive Wellington

The "Beehive" in New Zealand's capital city, Wellington, is the country's most distinctive building, and houses the executive wing of the government.

Lion statue in front of the Beehive, Wellington, New Zealand
Bronze lion in front of the Beehive

Alongside the Beehive are the old Parliament Buildings built in 1918. 

The old Parliament Buildings replaced the previous, original buildings from the 1870s and 1880s, which burnt down in 1907.

For a little history ... In the 1960s, the old Parliament Buildings started proving too cramped for the functions of governing. However, not everything in the original plan for those old buildings had been fully realized, so the idea of expanding them by completing them as per the original plans was floated in the 1950s and 1960s. 

It caused quite some controversy, with some people proposing additional construction, and others demolition and rebuilding.

So, the eminent British architect, Sir Basil Spence (1907–76), was brought in for his opinion. Sir Basil proposed keeping the old Parliament Buildings and adding a brand new, modernist building as the Executive wing. It was considered a great idea by enough people, so he was then commissioned to design it.

Maori plinth statues in front of the Beehive, Wellington, New Zealand.
Maori plinth statues on the grounds of the Beehive

Apparently Sir Basil was given a box of "Beehive" matches (a New Zealand brand), which inspired the name of the building. Whether it inspired the actual design or not, or just reflected it, we will never know.

Sir Basil Spence has become a controversial figure in architecture today, accused of facilitating many Brutalist monstrosities; however, few will argue with the elegance of the Beehive.

In spite of the Beehive having only 14 floors (four underground, 10 above ground), it took no less than 12 years (1969-81) to fully complete. However, it formally opened before full completion, in May 1977, with the government occupying the Beehive from 1979.

Government hierarchy is reflected in how high up one's office is in the Beehive, with the Cabinet room occupying the 10th floor and the prime minister (as queen bee) in her office on the 9th and part of the 8th floors. 

New Zealanders use the term, "the Beehive", to refer to the government in the same way that Americans talk about "the White House" and Britons "Westminster". 

Free guided tours (currently suspended due to COVID-19) of the Beehive leave from the Visitor Centre on the first floor.

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