Master’s Thesis 2017
Supervisor: Marco Polo
2017 AIA Henry Adams Award

Throughout history, serendipity has proven to be essential to innovation. However, our culture of speed and efficiency has led to habits, research methods, and even built environments that facilitate the fastest and most obvious routes from point A to B. This limits opportunities for serendipity while hindering us from experiencing the intrinsic pleasures of slowness and becoming lost. These habits of efficiency are reflected in the way that we organize knowledge. Scholars such as Michel Foucault and Umberto Eco criticized our categorization system as being too rigid. In fact, Eco preferred a more complex, labyrinthine system and organized his personal ad-hoc collection of books into unconventional categories. The thesis project proposes to bring together Eco’s vast collection of 50,000 books in a Research Library in Venice (the labyrinthine city), and through the project, explores the tensions between order and entropy; linearity and non-linearity; known and the unknown.


“...Concerns science, symbols, and strange languages.”

— Umberto Eco

As a semiotician, Umberto Eco’s largest collection was in the category of linguistics. He believed that the categorization found in our language as being too rigid, and believed that by creating a fluid connection between distinct categories, we can create innovations and serendipitous findings. Thus, Semiologica is designed in a continuous loop, with individual browsing / communal reading space on one side, and communal browsing / individual reading space on the other.

Study model exploring the fluidity of the book tower and the interaction between the spines and backs of the books.


“...Relates to inquiries of the spirit or to spiritual existence... In English universities during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, pneumatics frequently was presented in opposition to physics as a form of metaphysics and was used to classify a “doctrine of spirits.””

— Umberto Eco

The ritualistic circling around the concrete cylinder slows down the visitor’s pace and upon entering the library, they pause for a moment to bask in the light pouring through the glass opening. Here, we may allow ourselves to be chosen by the book, rather than pre-locating the book through its call number.


“I don’t collect serious science, only old science, alchemy, and things of a cabalistic nature.”

— Umberto Eco


“...Because things must be curious.”

— Umberto Eco

Curiosa is designed for browsing.
Rather than searching for a title online and locating the book through its call number, the readers are invited to stroll through the stacks, and meander through its labyrinthine corridors. By breaking away from the habit of efficiency, readers may notice a title that had gone unnoticed before. Curiosa encourages serendipitous findings.

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