Serendipity Searcher is a visual altlas and a phycial search engine that generates unexpected pathways to the valuable archive of the National and University Library of Slovenia (NUK). It brings together a spatial installation, machine learning algorithm, and human agency to physically reveal, select, and search for visual relations among the library’s holdings, resulting in an ever-changing atlas of items that might otherwise never meet.
The National and University Library is a structure built upon the modern ideals of access to knowlwdge, the power of curiosity, and the path to enlightenment. Regarded as Jože Plečnik’s temple for knowledge and wisdom, the architect filled its halls with layers of metaphors and hidden symbols that can be uncovered in every material detail. The library’s practical functions, however, now tell a less poetic story: the necessity to restrict access, strict categorizition, and the safeguard of its material collection, render much of its holdings inaccessible to the public. The fantasy of library as a space for new encounters and unexpected connections has long been replaced by a key card, an explicit search query, and a waiting queue.
The installation consists of a large light panel and polarizing filters that can magically reveal hidden content when placed within its frame. Visitors are invited to physically move the filters to explore visual connections or generate new ones by highlighting any two images of interest. Inspired by Plečnik’s architectural ideals, Serendipity Searcher aims to bring out a heterogeneity of stories to a public curious enough to search for them. It strives to engage a contemporary public through a novel means by bringing fragments of the library’s collection into a new light.
Concept and Develeopment: Thomas Hügin, Maja Kolar, Yuxi Liu, Boris Smeenk
Design Mentors: Commonplace Studio (Jon Stam, Simon de Bakker)
Knowledge Mentors: Žiga Cervenik, Irena Eiselt, Janko Klasinc
Project Management: Špela Pavli Perko
Support received from: The National and University Library (NUK), BIO26, The 26th Biennial of Design