Dezeen Magazine

(In)visible Membrane by Sonja Bäumel

Dutch Design Week: Austrian masters graduate Sonja Bäumel presents a body of work at Design Academy Eindhoven's Graduation Galleries exhibition this week, exploring how bacteria on human skin could be harnessed to create clothing that reacts to the environment.


Her (In)visible Membrane research project consists of four separate investigations including one where clothing fibres concentrate themselves on parts of the body that most require warmth (below).


There is more material and movies explaining the project are on Bäumel's website.


Bäumel was awarded a trip to the Design Indaba conference in Cape Town next February to talk about her work.


Top photo is by Rene van der Hulst. Some photos are copyright Andrea Bandoni. Here's some info from Design Academy Eindhoven:


Designer: Sonja Bäumel
Department: IM Masters
Graduated: 2009
Top photo by Rene van der Hulst

Project (IN)VISIBLE MEMBRANE ‘life on the human body and its design applications’


My thesis confronts scientific data and methods with fashion design in order to find a balance between individual identity and the surrounding local environment. My objective is to create a new second living layer on our body based on the interaction between individuals and their immediate surroundings.


I explore the boundaries between (fashion) design, art and science, to create multidisciplinary works using information generated by the design field and laboratory research to establish new ways of using and appreciating the micro cosmos around us. Collaborating with biologists, I want to document the research using scientific techniques that visualize and aesthetically transform this information that would otherwise be unknowable. What fascinates me most is human skin, the layer between inside and outside.


Our skin has a second layer of skin. A layer full of life, which serves as a membrane for exchange. This body membrane is made from the same substance as the world. The human body does not end at the skin, but invisibly expands into space. The hidden membrane exists between our body and our surroundings. We can enter this invisible micro level with a microscope; we enter and magnify the micro world. What happens if we make the micro world of the human body perceivable? I want to confront people with the fact that our body plays host to countless bacteria and that a balanced perception of the body is closely linked to a balanced perception of the self.


My vision is to use the invisible body layer, our individual skin bacteria population’s knowledge, to transform it into a visible, functional and flexibly adapting membrane. I believe that this new clothing on our skin could change our interaction with the environment and have health benefits for humans. The human body does not end at the skin, but is continually, invisibly, expanding into space.