On view

the Invisible


Artis, Amsterdam (NL)

They’re everywhere. Every human being carries two kilos of bacteria on them. And so do you. On and in your body. That’s a good thing because you can’t do without bacteria. They are essential for us, but also for the rest of life on earth. In Micropia you step into a new world, an invisible world that is present in and around you. You need microbes to digest your food but they can also make you sick. In this world you will encounter intriguing inhabitants such as the paramecium, extremophiles, leafcutter ants, water bears, and lots of viruses.

Amsterdam (NL)
850 m2
Concept, Spatial design, Graphic design, Creative direction
Michel de Vaan (lead), Mark de Jong, Niels de Jong, Jelte van Abbema, Pauline Fer, Sietske Sips, Valentina Rafaeli, Andreas Tscholl, Wiebren Schilstra, Britte Hietkamp (intern)
Media design
Simon Corder
Film and animations
Bind en Sterk, HollandCentraal, PlusOne, Temponaut, Wim van Egmond
Photo material
Artis, Wim van Egmond, ANP, Dennis Kunkel Microscopy Inc., Shutterstock, Stephen Gschmeissner
Sound and soundscapes
Peter Flamman
Build and realisation
Bruns BV
Sprenger von der Lippe
Real and alive

As Micropia is located in a zoo, we wanted to show real, living microbes which you can see moving and changing. There are microbiologists working there, who take care of the microbes and can explain everything. This turned out to be a huge challenge, but it is also what makes Micropia unique and timeless. Using electron microscopes you can operate yourself, spectacular animations and interactive exhibits we made the invisible visible.


“Together with ART+COM, we created special media installations such as the body scan. You control the interface with your body and your own microbes become the subject.”

Michel de Vaan

Chief designer – KDJ

All eyes on microbes

The only light in Micropia comes from the exhibited objects. It’s an inverse laboratory: not white and sterile but dark and mysterious. All eyes are automatically on the microbes. For example, you discover how many bacteria you exchange with a French kiss. On a life-size screen you can see how many microbes ‘live’ with you. And on a collection of cultures taken from everyday objects – such as a toothbrush and a mobile phone – you can see the countless bacteria on them.

“The soundscape by Peter Flamman is never dominant, but it is an essential element connecting the story”.

Mark de Jong


Good commissioning

Micropia was created through a cooperative process between many parties. The building, the spatial design and all media were developed in a fully integrated way. In order for this project to succeed, there was a lot that needed to be figured out on a microbiological level; there was a big risk whether this would succeed. Good commissioning proved once again to be essential here. Gaining trust, being on an adventure together to create something new, ultimately paid off in a very special project.

“At university, we learn all sorts of things about microbiology, but it’s never gotten this close to me. I never thought I’d find microbes this interesting.”


Medical student at the University of Amsterdam.


The Best in Heritage 2017

Project of Influence

DASA Award 2016

Most Innovative European Museum – winner

European Museum of the Year Award 2016

Kenneth Hudson Award – winner

German Design Award 2015

Special Mention

Museums+Heritage Awards 2015

International – Highly Commended

SBID International Design Award 2015


FX International Awards 2015

Interior Design – Shortlisted

Best of Year Award 2015

Interior Design – Honoree