Faróis do Saber – The Lighthouse-Shaped Libraries of Curitiba

Farol do Saber Emílio de Menezes in Mercês

photography by: Omri Westmark

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If it looks like a lighthouse, named like a lighthouse, and shines like a lighthouse, then it probably is a lighthouse? well, not really. During the mid-1990’s, the city of Curitiba launched a massive campaign to encourage residents to read more books. As part of a citywide endeavor, dozens of neighborhoods across Curitiba were bestowed with a lighthouse-shaped library, collectively known as Farol do Saber.

For decades on end, Curitiba has been in the forefront of sustainable urban planning, with projects like its bus rapid transit and garbage collection program serving as a model for cities across the world. During the 1990’s, as part of the municipal government’s attempt to improve each and every aspect of day-to-day life, the city prioritized boosting its education system.


To accomplish Curitiba’s ambitious plan, a network of over forty libraries were erected throughout much of the city. Whether as a cost saving measure or a pure architectural decision, all of the buildings were uniformly designed as a lighthouse-shaped structure, aptly named Farol do Saber – the lighthouse of knowledge.


Inspired by both the Lighthouse of Alexandria as well as the Library of Alexandria in Egypt, each unit features a 10-meter-tall cylindrical tower attached to a small depositary, whose built area is roughly 90 square meters. Every library comprises of 2 floors, the first is dedicated to books while the second offers a learning space with free internet access. Made entirely of metal, the lighthouse serves as a spiral staircase that connects the two decks and the viewing platform. Curiously, almost all of the towers are crowned by a rooster weathervane, a symbol of awakeness and sharp mind.


The libraries were constructed in the mid-1990’s, with the first one being erected in 1994, in the neighborhood of Mercês. As a tribute to the country’s rich literature, every library was named after an illustrious Brazilian novelist or poet, including Machado de Assis and Emílio de Menezes, to name just a few. With the availability of infinite knowledge throughout the internet, the libraries might not be the pilgrimage sites they once were, and yet, their eye-catching presence offers a refreshing respite from their otherwise mundane surroundings.