marguerite humeau: back, here below, formidable marguerite humeau: back, here below, formidable
jul 09, 2011

marguerite humeau: back, here below, formidable

‘mammoth imperator’ (2011) part of ‘back, here below, formidable’ by marguerite humeau resonance cavities, larynx with vibrating vocal cords, windpipe, air compressor, programmed breathing system, subwoofer installation view, 600 x 300 x 100 cm

marguerite humeau, a recent design interactions graduate royal college of art aims to resuscitate the sounds of extinct animals by reconstructing their vocal tracts, in a project titled ‘back, here below, formidable’. interested in bringing back to life this aspect of prehuman history, humeau reflects that ‘science, design and fictions have to be used [together] as tools to recreate the beasts.‘

composed of soft tissue, the vocal chords of animals do not fossilize; only the surrounding bone is preserved. humeau’s extrapolation of the form of the windpipes involved extensive research and collaboration with paleaeontologists, zoologists, veterinarians, engineers, explorers, surgeons, ear and throat specialists, and radiologists.

the design process varies for each animal, based on how much data is available and whether the creature has modern relatives. for ‘lucy’, for example, based on a hominid australopithecus afarensis that lived 3.85 to 2.95 million years ago, humeau compared a CT scan of a human trachea and larynx against data from a chimpanzee and the skeletal data of ‘lucy’, using the predictions of scientists to guide her design.

in addition to reconstructing a model of the windpipe, humeau has developed a means of restoring ‘voice’ to the creatures by connecting the models to an artificial breathing device based on an air compressor.

‘back, here below, formidable’ currents consists of a book documenting the research and process of the project, and two complete models: ‘lucy’, and ‘mammoth imperator’, whose species lived from 4.8 to 4500 years ago.

closer view of resonance cavities of ‘mammoth imperator’ (2011)

‘lucy’ (‘autralopithecus afarensis’) (2011) resonance cavities, larynx with vibrating vocal cords, windpipe, air compressor, programmed breathing system installation view, 50 x 115 x 30 cm

‘mammoth imperator’ larynx with vibrating vocal cords, windpipe

3D reconstruction of CT scans of an asian elephant’s vocal tract, used as research for ‘mammoth imperator’

have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.

comments policy
designboom's comment policy guidelines
generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

- please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
- please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
- please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
- please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
- please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
(there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
the best 100-200 entries too.)

a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

design news