KOMBUTEX at the Embassy of Health during the Dutch Design Week 2020

Life has been turned upside-down. Everyday activities have been put on hold, the dining table is now an office, and video calling is the new way to meet people. Distance is the new buzzword, which only makes us realize just how important closeness and intimacy really are. At a time when we have to contend with more and more restrictions and are very aware of our own vulnerability, we derive satisfaction from helping people around us. Grocery shopping for the lady next door, singing outside the windows of a nursing home, phoning to check on somebody — somehow we feel more connected to one another than ever before.

All this makes us reflect on what truly matters. Is it survival, at the expense of everything else we consider so important? Besides all the protocols, is there enough space for what visibly does us good? And what about the bigger picture: the functioning of society, the viability of the planet? This online exhibition shows the power of design research in finding answers to these questions. It presents projects by designers and care professionals who together, with a forward-looking approach, are working to create a healthy society. The Embassy of Health invites you to join them on their unconventional tour that explores the values and possibilities of caring for ourselves and one another.

KOMBUTEX was part of the exhibition exploring the concept of “In Synch”:
All of us find ourselves in something of a pause mode: a period that prompts us to reflect on ourselves and the world around us. Yet if we zoom out and consider the bigger picture by looking beyond the borders of systems, we realize that everything is interconnected. We are nothing but a cog in a large machine that we often fail to fully grasp, but whose impact we often feel. A healthy society goes hand in hand with a healthy planet, where systems are ‘in sync’ with one another. Are we capable of achieving a sustainable ecosystem?

“We want to bring the built world into sync with nature with LABS.” – Samira Boon

Kombucha is catching on in cafés, but this trendy drink made of fermented tea and sugar can be more. Together with the VU and Waag Society, Studio Samina Boon is studying how the layer of bacteria that grows on the surface can be deployed to create a sustainable, breathing interior. They are growing a type of textile – Kombutex – that acts as a fertile breeding ground for vegetation such as mosses and other small plants. If used as a wall covering, it provides a natural alternative to mechanical ventilation. Depending on the growing period, the result varies from a thin, transparent filter to a thick leathery material, which is still completely biodegradable. ‘LABS’ stands for Living Aero Bacterial Systems; walls of living organisms that turn our interiors into part of the ecosystem.