Zero Footprint Campus was an art programme in the public area of the Utrecht Science Park, the area formerly known as De Uithof in Utrecht. Twelve artists selected from the Netherlands and abroad have been commissioned to conduct a one-year artistic study into the possibilities and impossibilities of Zero Footprint Campus. To what extent is this area, with its users (researchers, students, canteen staff, security staff, etc.), suitable for creating new works of art? How can this work contribute to and shed some light on our search for a sustainable society? Through intensive collaboration with experts from the university of applied sciences, the university and other institutions and knowledge institutions, artists could use the Science Park as a scientific search engine. The study took one year and has resulted in new work that was presented in the public area of the Science Park in June 2017.

Read more in our Q&A!

The project

In Zero Footprint Campus twelve artists were conducting artistic research at Utrecht Science Park. Each in their own way, they drew inspiration from the material provided from their direct environment, such as animals, books, waste, data and innovations. In the hands of these artists, these local sources were given a new value, a value that is important in thinking about the campus of the future.

Utrecht Science Park

The Utrecht Science Park, formerly De Uithof, is an area just outside the city centre of Utrecht where the university of applied sciences, the university, companies, NGOs, the hospital and many other institutions are located. The Utrecht Science Park is a campus after the American model, a city in its own right, a place where knowledge and research are concentrated and where the wishes and needs of employees and students are met. It is a geographic piece of land where searching has priority, where everything is organised around facilitating the searchers and their search, ranging from cancer research and stem cell research to applied gaming, the circular economy and problems concerning the sustainable city. These various subjects and the wide range of companies and knowledge institutes are part of a shared theme and interest summed up by the Utrecht Science Park under the denominator Healthy Urban Living. Healthy living in the city is an inescapable issue, given the increasing global urbanisation. How do we ensure cities and their residents remain healthy? This question is so big and so many domains are involved that a powerful search engine is essential. The Utrecht Science Park is one of such powerful search engines and consists of people, buildings, infrastructure, data, technology and organic material.

The Department of Search joins this search power of the area and adds a new search method to the Utrecht Science Park: the ‘artist method’.

The approach

Since September 2016, the Department of Search has been using its own open-air faculty building, a public platform where participating artists present their search questions, organise meetings, and communicate with the Utrecht Science Park audience. All artists worked on the campus on a regular basis – visibly and invisibly. This leaded to the Zero Footprint Campus presentation in June 2017 with absurd, realistic, futuristic and critical views on a sustainable society. The results of the various art projects also became evident in ways less visible: a ‘breach’ in the existing and sometimes hampering systems, a new insight or view, a special partnership.


Zero Footprint Campus was initiated by the Department of Search, an organisation founded by artists – a department of search as well as a department for search. This new artists’ organisation was founded in 2016 at the Utrecht Science Park after a one-year study by Dutch artist Melle Smets and Cynthia Hathaway, a designer working in the Netherlands. This new department links artists to the scientific practice of the Utrecht Science Park, it offers them the space for their study and experiments, and it commissions them with developing and presenting new work. The Department of Search offers the participating artists and scientists an opportunity to meet each other, enter into new relations, start new partnerships and gain other insights.

Zero Footprint Partners

Project Coordination

Monique Dirven 

in association with

Nicoline Meijer
Gary Sheikkariem 


Eveline Mulckhuyse 

Concept campaign and web design

Dietwee merk, ontwerp, communicatie

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Department of Search

The initiative of the Department of Search was taken by the Aardschap Foundation and the municipality of Utrecht in collaboration with the Utrecht Science Park Foundation and Universitity Utrecht. The Zero Footprint Campus programme is also made possible by The Art of Impact, Mondriaan Fonds, provincie Utrecht, K.F. Hein Fonds, Prins Bernard Cultuurfonds and Stichting Doen.

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