Urban Data Forest

In Urban Data Forest, we reconsider long term data archiving and storage, by providing a future vision on how the exponential storage capacity growth of DNA data storage could look like. It investigates the potential of trees as a storage place for data and reflects on what type of data should be stored in this ‘biological cloud’ and how that influences urban planning and social cohesion.




DNA data storage

Point of Entry :

Urban Data Forest - Pesetabs

Po Informing the Environmental Vision of The Hague 2050

Ar Speculative movie installation

Sc Plant genome size linked to data storage formula



How can reforming human associations with seemingly immaterial digital data, create opportunities to reimagine the nature of cities? Through Urban Data Forest, Grow Your Own Cloud enlarges the scope of previous work in the realm of DNA data storage. While previously focusing on plant-based data storage, this new work seeks to create an ecosystem enacting a regenerative and multispecies space in The Hague to rethink data archiving.

Urban Data Forest reimagines the city as a site of data storage in plants and trees. It explores the possibility of how DNA data storage technology could transform urban spaces, bringing nature and data back to the city. The project investigates how synthetic biology can help establish regenerative green data infrastructure; a universal biological cloud capable of capturing carbon dioxide and storing digital data. Two types of Urban Data Forest are proposed: ‘The Breathing Museum’ which serves to archive public and cultural data, and ‘Living Archives’ which are forests primarily dedicated to citizens as facilities in which they can store their personal data.’

Text by: Manuel Ciraqui in booklet RETOOL exhibition

In this project, the materiality of data is explored, tracing links between what is considered immaterial data and the high material aspects of data production, in particular the enormous physical and carbon footprints of cloud data centers. The project will experiment with alternative materiality for data, developing a biological cloud to offer a highly clean and regenerative way of archiving data, while also questioning the future viability of such technology.

This biological cloud will take the form of an Urban Data Forest, acting simultaneously as an artwork that explores data archival over deep time, a physical space for new types of interspecies interactions, and a technical proof of an emerging regenerative technology. It will propose a new green urban space, with data-encoded life grown and cared for by local communities. The aim is to plant the first seed of a potential future in which data centers resemble natural habitats rather than built environments.

Through a combination of technical experimentation, prototyping, collaboration with fellowship partners, and citizen involvement the collective will work on prototyping a future in which sustainable data storage within the city becomes a path to realizing cleaner, greener, and more prosperous cities.

The jury decided to select Grow Your Own Cloud as a winner of the Repairing the Present Fellowship at Regional S+T+ARTS Centre In4Art because their project Urban Data Forest acts at the forefront of a biological cloud revolution which will reformulate our relationship with urban nature and with data in ways beyond imagination. Under the name Urban Data Forest, the collective aims to re-imagine the data cloud by creating the world’s first biological data center within the city of The Hague. Urban Data Forest is a very creative and imaginative project, raising ethical, technical, and societal questions about data storage and their environmental consequences. The potential of technical, social and economic innovation, which lies at the heart of this project, fits perfectly with the S+T+ARTS and New European Bauhaus vision of art manifesting at the forefront of new possibilities and the European Green Deal targets for sustainability and greening European cities.


The work has been exhibited at:

2022-3 ■ 38CC (NL)
2022 ■ ZKM (GE)


Grow Your Own Cloud is an art-science collective initiated by Cyrus Clarke (FR) and Monika Seyfried (PL). Since 2017, their research focuses on the possibilities and applications of DNA data storage, exploring the materiality of data and links to climate change, while seeking to demonstrate alternative visions for the future which enrich the user experience. Their hybrid practice involves an ethics- led process to work with genetic engineering and DNA data storage, in order to develop responsible innovations with potential for real world applications. As such, Grow Your Own Cloud collaborates in a multidisciplinary team encompassing designers, artists, architects and scientists.



February 2022 – December 2022




Witteveen+Bos was as a residency host. The project was part of the S+T+ARTS Regional Centers project Repairing the Present and has received funding from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology under grant agreement LC01641664.

S+T+ARTS / Funded by the European Union

S+T+ARTS is about thinking out of the box and building bridges between Science, Technology and Arts.

STARTS is an initiative of the European Commission to foster alliances of science, technology, and the arts, that effectively implement a European approach to technological innovation centered on human needs and values.

Science, Technology and Arts form a nexus with an extraordinarily high potential for creative and reflective innovation.And such innovation is considered to be precisely what is called for to master the social, ecological and economic challenges that Europe is facing.

With disruptive methods of exploration and an accurate critical eye on the use of technology, artists decisively raise awareness of the societal challenges and global concerns we are tackling. The artistic practices are seen as innovative processes and have a wide-reaching potential to contribute to the development of new economic, social and business models.

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