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In recent years, the widening notion of the designer as researcher has opened up the possibility of a design practice beyond product making. This understanding of design fosters a twofold paradigm change: on the one hand research is no longer conceived as an isolated, independent act, but rather as a collaborative endeavor; on the other, the practice of design could lead to objects and materials, as well as to open-ended processes, speculations, even policy changes. This state of affairs demands new methodologies and forms of responsibility, as well as a new role for the designer – an ambition that has been previously manifested in several Het Nieuwe Instituut and Serpentine Galleries initiatives.

This particular approach is also at the core of Studio Formafantasma. While still engaging with the production of objects, their work is coded with references to design’s ecological, political and cultural implications. As a design studio, Formafantasma has developed a peripheral position to the industrial production that allows them 
to pose questions and at the same time make choices.They look at materials and their origins as the central focus for the development of research subjects that aim to offer moments of reflection and analysis on the meaning of production and the transformation of natural resources into commodities. In order to achieve this aim, they establish relationships with different practitioners, from scientists to engineers, adopting a multidisciplinary approach as a way to elicit new ways of interpreting design as a discipline and expanding its potential.

This Open Call is an attempt to continue exploring and advancing the possibilities of the coupling of research and design. With this new initiative, Het Nieuwe Instituut, the Serpentine Galleries, and Formafantasma, seek to engage researchers and designers in the development and dissemination of innovative and critical ideas by being part of a collaborative, transnational, design act. 

Through this initiative Het Nieuwe Instituut and the Serpentine Galleries invite recently graduated researchers and designers to work together with Studio Formafantasma in the development of their upcoming investigation and exhibition at the Serpentine Galleries in London in Spring 2020. The selected candidate will join Formafantasma’s team in Amsterdam, and work in close contact with Het Nieuwe Instituut and the Serpentine Galleries, on a long-term project starting in January 2019 and extending for the subsequent 12 months. The project will depart from some of the questions explored by Formafantasma in their 2018 e-waste related investigation Ore Streams and will culminate in an exhibition at Serpentine Galleries in London in 2020, and subsequent installments in other locations. The exhibition will critically monitor the relationship between design, production and the environment and develop possible design and other interventions including policy, based on multidisciplinary conversations.

Aims of the Open Call

With this Open Call and research position, Het Nieuwe Instituut, the Serpentine Galleries and Formafantasma seek to:

  • Establish collaborations across borders, institutions, and disciplines.
  • Advance and stimulate knowledge exchange in the field of design.
  • Foster collective research methodologies as well as forms of solidarity and responsibility within the design field that could lead to spatial, political, and social transformations.
  • Support design researchers and practitioners in their early years of their career to work together with established practices and institutions in the development of ambitious and relevant projects. 

Studio Formafantasma

Andrea Trimarchi (1983) and Simone Farresin (1980) are Studio Formafantasma, an Italian design duo based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Their interest in product design developed on the IM master course at Design Academy Eindhoven, where they graduated in July 2009. Since then, Formafantasma has developed a body of work characterized by experimental material investigations and they have explored issues such as the relationship between tradition and local culture, critical approaches to sustainability and the significance of objects as cultural conduits. In perceiving their role as a bridge between craft, industry, object and user, they are interested in forging links between their research-based practice and a wider design industry.

Their work has been presented and published internationally and acquired in the permanent collections of major museums all over the world. Andrea and Simone are lecturing and heading workshops in various Universities and Institutions. Currently they are teaching at the ‘Well Being’ and 'Contextual Design' Departments of the Design Academy Eindhoven. Since October 2016, they are at the head of the Design bachelor at MADE Program in Siracusa, Italy.   

Serpentine Galleries

Championing new ideas in contemporary art since it opened in 1970, the Serpentine has presented pioneering exhibitions of 2,263 artists over 45 years, showing a wide range of work from emerging practitioners to the most internationally recognised artists, designers and architects of our time. 

Het Nieuwe Instituut

Het Nieuwe Instituut is the Dutch institute for Architecture, Design and Digital Culture. The institute combines a research-driven museum, the State Archive for Architecture, the Agency for international programmes, and an un-official Academy. In an era characterised by radical technological, economic, cultural and social shifts, Het Nieuwe Instituut aims to illuminate and map the quickly changing world and foster discussion of it, in a networked fashion, with architects, designers, artists, knowledge institutes, cultural organisations and other agents.

The institute organises exhibitions, lectures and fellowships, carries out and publishes research projects, and develops international programmes at the Venice Architecture Biennale, the Salone del Mobile in Milan, the Istanbul Design Biennale, and the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture in Shenzhen, among other forums. All Het Nieuwe Instituut’s activities are grounded in the principles of design and innovation – two concepts bound up with changing value systems and conflict. 

About the position

The embedded researcher is a 12-month fellowship position based at Formafantasma in Amsterdam, the Netherlands from January 2019. It  includes a total stipend of 18.000 EUR to be distributed over 12 months. Stipends may be subject to a withholding tax. Researchers are responsible for arranging their own accommodation. Specific details about the position will be discussed with selected applicants. 

Selection Process and Resources

All applications will be reviewed on the basis of their engagement with the theme and the aims of the project. The position includes research, planning/coordination and project development in collaboration with Studio Formafantasma. 

Candidates will be considered based on their understanding of the economic, political, social and cultural implications of design, their ability to conduct research on multiple media and publications but also in dialogue with third parties (companies, universities, individuals). The researcher will have the chance to work in close collaboration with Formafantasma and to follow in full the development of the research, the curatorial framework for the exhibition and its final translation into multiple possible outcomes (exhibition, catalogue, public and educational program). Due to the specific nature of the project, the candidate should be interested and/or experienced in research/journalism/criticism and fully aware of the past and recent developments of the design discipline. In addition, the candidate will have a keen interest in and engagement with recent discourse around ecology, the environment and related fields. The following skills will be also taken into consideration: Research and organizational, Photoshop and Adobe Suite, English (writing and speaking).

A shortlist of candidates will be called for an interview. A committee composed of representatives from Het Nieuwe Instituut, Serpentine Galleries and Formafantasma will select the embedded researcher.


The deadline for submitting proposals is 7 January via email at

Format and Submission Requirements

The Open Call is open to individuals. Applications should be written in English and submitted in a single PDF file of maximum 10MB. In order to be considered, proposals should include the following information:

  • A self-introduction in which applicants articulate the relation between their interests and practice and the work of Formafantasma. 
  • Relevant documentation of previous work, and/or links to audio or video files (maximum 10 minutes) in the application PDF.


Het Nieuwe Instituut and Serpentine Galleries aim to announce the selected applicant by 15 January. Other applications will remain confidential.


For questions about the Open Call and the application procedure, please contact:


Delany Boutkan, Marten Kuijpers, Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, Setareh Noorani
Alex Walker