Germ City—Microbes and the Metropolis

Finalist 2020
Finalist 2019

Germ City is the first segment of a multi-city initiative to “highlight the social and scientific interplay between people and pathogens” in the urban environment. The exhibition features over 100 scientific and historical artifacts, interactive stations, and commissioned artworks that tell the story of city-wide responses to infectious disease over the last 200 years.

While most exhibitions about the city highlight its verticality, this exhibit focuses instead on the organic flow of microbes. The main gallery creates a deeply-immersive, miasmic laboratory environment. A gigantic, curvilinear table in the center imagines a new exhibition typology of agglomeration that creates loose groupings to demonstrate connections among objects, reproductions and artworks that are thematically related. In the Reading Room, the discussion table typology is disaggregated into smaller, unique stations to invite diverse interpretations and hands-on engagement.

Throughout the exhibition, typography expands and contracts—much like the organic movement of microbes. Dozens of small microbe illustrations introduce the visitor to the “cast of characters” to help them keep track of the diseases discussed. Larger objects, such as a "Blood Mirror" sculpture that protests the exclusion of gay men from donations or a full-size iron lung, are situated in the negative space of the table shape to allow appropriate wheelchair access.

Design Firms: 

Isometric Studio


Museum of the City of New York

Project Area: 

4,400 sq ft

Open Date: 

September 2018

Project Budget: 


Photo Credits: 

Isometric Studio (photography)

Design Team: 

Waqas Jawaid (architect); Andy Chen, Jihye Um, Renald Louissaint, Hannah Meng (graphic designers)


South Side Design and Building (fabrication, installation), Full Point Graphics (vinyl visual print solutions, labels)

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