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A microbe zoo for invisible creatures

Kerry Boettcher
Wednesday 22 Apr 2015

Kossmann.dejong has developed Micropia, a display for a microscopic world in Amsterdam

Micropia, a microbe zoo in Amsterdam, designed by Kossmann.dejong opened to the public last December. This unique exhibition makes visible the invisible world of live microorganisms and reveals some surprising facts about how humans would not be able to live without microorganisms, and that most life forms on earth are cannot be seen by the human eye. 

Working in partnership with ART+COM, the architects designed the space to house a range of media installations which allow visitors to see, explore and experience the world of microorganisms in different ways, through which they themselves become part of the exhibition.

A bright ground floor and dark upper floor, forms a type of ‘inverted laboratory’, dark and mysterious, rather than white and sterile, as scientific environments are normally imagined. The dark environment allows the displays with the microorganisms to shine and glow extra brightly. Special 3D microscopes were installed so that tiny creatures, normally invisible to the human eye, would be magnified and become larger than life. Visitors can see the tiny organisms in a way they have never seen them before by navigating the 3D image using a joystick connected to the microscope. 

At the heart of Micropia is the laboratory, where technicians actually grow microorganisms and keep them alive. Sound designer, Peter Flamman, has designed Micropia’s soundscape, which enhances the feeling of having entered an unknown and magical universe. It interconnects various elements and contributes to the overall experience. 

Interactive tools facilitate and enhance visitors’ experiences, for example, they can become the subject of a full body scan, in which they not only handle the interface, but are also the subject of the experience through which they can become at one with the microorganisms thriving within and on their own bodies. 

Once having visited Micropia, it is likely that visitors will never see themselves or the world in the same way ever again. 

Kerry Boettcher

News editor

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Architecture
Netherlands

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