Soil is the most complicated biomaterial on the planet. As with any material, the physical habitat is of prime importance in determining and regulating biological activity. However, until recently the opaque nature of soil has meant that any interrogation of its interior architecture has been relatively rudimentary, restricted to simple qualitative expressions of the physical heterogeneity that fail to relate to any specific function. However, new techniques and insights into the biophysical and biochemical processes of this inner space are leading to the developments of theoretical frameworks and experimental approaches that will allow us to sustainably manage Earth's most important resource. We introduce the concept that the soil-microbe system is self-organized and suggest new priorities for research based on an integrative approach that combines biochemistry and biophysics.