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Testing Grounds

Since its foundation in 2013, Het Nieuwe Instituut has carried out and supported research in architecture, design and digital culture. Exhibitions, lectures, archival investigations and publications have served as outputs of research, but more importantly as active platforms for its development. Initiated by former Head of Research Marina Otero Verzier, Het Nieuwe Instituut's Fellowship Programme has a fundamental role in these platforms. Intended as a means of supporting and learning from a variety of research initiatives and methodologies, the fellowship is ultimately an opportunity to rehearse other modes of thinking and doing. Following the calls triptych on the body's burn-out (2018), planetary exhaustion (2019) and 'regeneration' through new institutional practices (2020), plus the themeless Call for Fellows of 2021, the Research department proposes Testing Grounds as the focus for the 2022 Open Call.

14 June 2022

Call for Fellows 2022. Image: Pleun Gremmen

Call for Fellows 2022. Image: Pleun Gremmen

In line with the fellowship programme's ongoing ambition to rehearse other modes of thinking and doing, the focus of this year's Call for Fellows is on supporting research practices as testing grounds. Approaching these testing grounds as action spaces and networks of relations allows us to find research causes, try out methodologies and develop tools. This year's theme does not focus on 'testing grounds' as the content of research only, but as ways of doing research.

Grounds are often seen as stable entities, but they can also be malleable and muddy - mobile ecologies of being. Although grounds are imagined as holding bodies, feeding them and 'grounding' them, they do not do this equally. Grounds have been a space for inequality for both human and more-than-human life. How can we rehabilitate those grounds? Where does the potential lie to nurture and heal them? Within this open call, 'grounds' become metaphors for 'issue spaces', communities for grounding or belonging, and the grounds of debate.

Aside from the field or 'ground' to test ideas, speaking to innovation and laboratory narratives, testing grounds also connote military or colonial enterprises, in which 'the ground' and 'the abroad' are seen as sites for probing oppressive models of being. How can we reimagine the testing ground as a non-extractive, anti-colonial, intersectional, more-than-human, feminist ground for doing otherwise? Testing grounds not for exclusionary and sanitised research, but for collective actions that provide foundations for rehearsing radically healing models of co-creation that include all life.

Through this open call, Het Nieuwe Instituut offers a space for such testing grounds and sites for action-based forms of research: investigating new materials, exploring other ways of working and collaborating, initiating alternative policy models, regenerating new institutions, retooling archives and forms of heritage, while moving our attention to the messy methodologies and dynamic processes that occur while making change happen.

The testing grounds the open call refers to can go beyond the institutional and fellowship grounds of Het Nieuwe Instituut. This open call asks for the consideration of other sites, forms of collaboration, ecologies, cosmologies and cosmograms.


Het Nieuwe Instituut publicly advocates for research and design practices that transcend the notion of individual authorship and include multiple perspectives, activate multiple channels for the distribution of research outcomes, and construct a network of collaborators and other institutional contacts, both within the Netherlands and abroad. With this call, Het Nieuwe Instituut continues to support collaborative practices within design, architecture and digital culture. The call, however, does not impose ideas about what collaboration implies, nor does it provide guidelines on the relationships that it involves.

Applicants are encouraged to submit a proposal that addresses their current investigations, explorations, or unfinished thoughts through the lens of architecture, design and digital culture. Proposals should clearly state the main focus, aims, and the socio-economic, nature-cultural, and political context in which they are based. They may incorporate a larger system of reference, schools of critical thought and transdisciplinary practices, and non-academic references, as well as different forms of engagement and co-creation. They may contain the seeds, or ruins, of what is coming next, or propose ways to hold space for future generations - while accounting for the granular, the yet-to-be.

All applications will be reviewed based on their engagement with the proposed topic, contemporary challenges, depth of investigation, and connection to Het Nieuwe Instituut's mission. Preference will be given to proposals that demonstrate critical and forward thinking, specificity, situatedness and a distinctive research theme and methodology.

About the Research Fellowships

Het Nieuwe Instituut offers two Research Fellowship positions for six months (from October 2022 to March 2023). Each of these positions includes a maximum budget of 20,000 euros. Stipends may be subject to a withholding tax.

There is no age limit for applicants. Individuals and collectives from all places of residence are invited to apply. Neither a curriculum vitae nor letters of recommendation are requested. The fellowships are open to all degree levels in all disciplines (design, architecture and digital culture). Equal priority will be given to those without a degree or institutional affiliation who can also demonstrate a high level of creativity, critical thought and other potential in their respective fields.

Fellows are responsible for arranging their own accommodation. Fellows must be able to attend regular meetings (in Rotterdam or via video calls). The Research Fellowships will be developed through independent research and development; individual support and interaction with the Research Department team; and meetings to discuss thematic and methodological aspects of the project.

The fellows are invited to organise public presentations in late 2022 or early 2023, as part of Het Nieuwe Instituut's Thursday Night Live! or other programmes. The research outcomes of the fellowship will also be published on an ongoing basis on Het Nieuwe Instituut's website and in its newsletter or other publications. The project may contribute to future exhibitions or events within Het Nieuwe Instituut or develop independently of the public programmes at Het Nieuwe Instituut.

Fellows have daily access to the facilities of Het Nieuwe Instituut, including the library, archives, exhibitions, workspaces and presentation spaces. Other resources may be available in concert with other departments of Het Nieuwe Instituut as well as its ongoing institutional partnerships.

Previous fellows include

Dele Adeyemo, Ramon Amaro, Andrea Bagnato, Daphne Bakker, Annet Dekker, Natalie Dixon, Tal Erez, Sara Frikech, Elisa Giuliano, Dan Handel, Ruben Jacobs, Chris Kabel, Christopher Lee, Roos Meerman, Christien Meindertsma, Malique Mohamud, Simone C Niquille, O grupo inteiro, Paolo Patelli, Sascha Pohflepp, Resolve Collective, Claudia Rot, Malkit Shoshan, Matthew Stadler, Noam Toran and Füsun Türetken, MELT, and School of Mutants.

More information about them can be found here.

Selection process

A pre-selection of applicants will be made by members of the Research Department: Janilda Bartolomeu Leite, Delany Boutkan, Kirtis Clarke, Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, Marten Kuijpers, Setareh Noorani, Federica Notari, Wietske Nutma and Carolina Pinto. More information about the pre-selection team can be found here.

An international jury will then select the two fellows. Jury members include Aric Chen (General and Artistic Director of Het Nieuwe Instituut), Rahul Gudipudi (Writer, Researcher and Exhibitions Curator at Jameel Arts Centre and Hayy Jameel), O grupo inteiro (Multidisciplinary collective, Former Het Nieuwe Instituut Research Fellows), Lynn Zebeda (Impact strategist, Board member and Co-founder Dr. Monk) and Feifei Zhou (Spatial and Visual designer, Tutor at Central Saint Martins). More information about the jury members can be found here.

The members of the jury will have access to all applications and can add any proposal to the pre-selection list at their discretion. All applications will be reviewed based on their engagement with the fellowship theme, depth of investigation, idiosyncrasy, connection to Het Nieuwe Instituut's mission and potential for exchange across disciplinary boundaries.

Submission requirements and deadline

Applications may be submitted from 20 June to 10 August 2022.

Please send your application to:

Your application should include:

  • Introductions to yourself and to the project, preferably contained in a link to a video file (maximum 3 minutes). These introductions could be in other formats if the applicant is uncomfortable with or unable to use video. Applicants could additionally send graphic material such as drawings, images or digital items (maximum 10)

  • A proposed calendar and a working methodology or research approach (maximum 300 words)

  • Contact information (full name, country of residence, email address, telephone number)

  • Give your file the title of your name and the research proposal, in the following format: APPLICANTNAME_PROJECTNAME.pdf

  • Applications and supplementary materials should be in English and submitted, by attachment, as a single PDF, consisting of a maximum of five A4 sheets.

We understand that English proficiency may vary. We also recognise that English may not be the applicant's first or primary language. As such - even though proposals should be submitted in English - all proposals will be considered solely on the criteria specified above, regardless of English language skills. Proposals should, however, be as thorough and specific as possible. Unfortunately, we are currently unable to offer translation support. Applicants with specific needs requiring reasonable adjustments are encouraged to contact about the availability of support services.

There is no entry fee for the Call for Fellows.


Developments around Covid-19 and the restrictions imposed by governments will be considered. It may be impossible for the fellowship to take place during the period mentioned above, for instance because of travel restrictions to or from the country of residence, or the impossibility of carrying out the proposal. In case the timeline is not feasible, the fellowship may be postponed, or the proposal may need to be adapted to the current conditions.

More information

If you have questions, please contact before 22 July 2022. After this date, please see the frequently asked questions below.


  • Can individuals apply to the open call or is the open call only for collaborations?
    Individuals are more than welcome to apply to the open call. However, we encourage a collaborative angle to the proposal. What this 'collaborative angle' entails, who is part of this collaboration and how 'collective work' or 'collaboration' is defined is fully dependent on the context and situatedness of the research and its research methodology.
  • The video is a preferred format in the application, but could I send my application in the form of a written proposal instead?
    We understand that the video format may not be too comfortable for all applicants. If a written proposal is preferred, we would kindly ask you to stay within the aforementioned five A4 pages for the entire application.
  • How much flexibility is there in terms of carrying out the fellowship in Rotterdam, digitally, or in other locations?
    We are hoping to be able to meet the fellows in Rotterdam for a shorter or longer timeframe, however we are open to various formats of site-specific or remote research for the six months fellowship according to the needs of the project and the Covid regulations around that time.
  • Are applicants expected to outline the format of their research outcomes (such as a publication, exhibition, etc) in their applications?
    For applicants, it is advised to focus on the framework of the research and its methodologies. However, applicants are welcome to suggest possible research outcomes and formats.
  • Do research projects have to encompass architecture, design and digital culture?
    Project proposals do not have to include all disciplines (design, architecture and digital culture). They can depart from just one, bridge multiple disciplines or apply to a wider frame of reference.
  • How are applicants expected to specify costs for the project proposal?
    As the fellowship is intended to create space and time for research, we do not require applicants to specify details of the costs of the project.
  • When is the final deadline to submit applications?
    The final deadline is 10 August at 23:59 CEST.