25 unfinished buildings on 6 continents

“Unfinishedness” is probably most strikingly represented in works of art. Just think of the Non finito-sculptures of Michelangelo made in the Renaissance-period that paid tribute to the theory of Plato that no work of art might ever completely resemble its heavenly counterpart. Michelangelo’s sculptures inspired the Non finitos of Rodin and his vague figures that appear to be struggling to emerge from masses of marble such as his La Pensée sculpture from the late 19th Century. Or picture the projects that were intentionally left unfinished such as the follies of the late 16th to 18th Centuries – such as the temple of philosophy at Ermenonville, symbolising that knowledge would never be complete – or imagine art movements such as Fluxus that during the 1960s engaged in experimental art performances which emphasised the artistic process over the finished product. Other artists that considered the process of creating more important than the finished work were creatives such as the American composer and music theorist John Cage who emphasised that one should embark on an artwork without any conception of its end. When thinking about contemporary expressions of unfinished creative work one might consider the designer Martin Margiela and his deliberately unfinished trousers and tops from his game-changing fashion show of 1989.

Given how rich and broad “unfinishedness” is applied and discussed in the world of art, music, and fashion, we aimed to investigate “unfinishedness” in architecture and urbanism in cooperation with the research studio “Unfinished Urbanism” at the Peter Behrens School of Arts (PBSA). One of the most famous unfinished architectural structures is possibly Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Família in Barcelona that has been under construction for around 140 years. Even with portions of the basilica incomplete to this day, it is still the most popular tourist destination in Spain with millions of visitors every year and one might wonder whether it is the “unfinishedness” of the building or the building itself that attracts that many people. Since an important aspect of “Unfinished Urbanism” can be found in buildings and structures themselves, we focused our research in the studio on those. Thus, 25 unfinished structures emerged from the research. These were found and examined by participants of the studio worldwide, on 6 continents. The background colours of the various projects represent the respective continents where the structures are located (South America: pink, Europe: blue, Africa: green, Asia: yellow, North America: red, Australia/Oceania: orange). One goal of the studio was to find out how “Unfinished Urbanism” might be defined and figuring out its potential as well as its shortcomings when looking at unfinished structures.

Exhibition opening of the research project on February 9, 2022 in the Atrium of the Peter Behrens School of Arts

Article “Stranded in Limbo: 25 Unfinished Structures”, pages 65 – 66, MONU #35

Title: Stranded in Limbo: 25 Unfinished Structures
Project: Research project on unfinished structures
Date: January 2023
Type: Academic research
Location: Worldwide
Programme: Urban and architectural research
Status: Completed
Organisation: Peter Behrens School of Arts (PBSA)
Publications: MONU #35, P. 65-72
Exhibitions: “Unfinished Urbanism”, February – August 2022, Atrium, Building 6 (wall towards workshop, ground floor), Peter Behrens School of Arts, Münsterstraße 156, 40476 Düsseldorf
Team: Bernd Upmeyer, Helen Wagner, Johanna Kelling, Karolin Hahn, Julia Strömer, Aurélie Tassi, Melike Toprak, Marie Nickessen, Valerie Wahl, Christin Schomakers, Julia Niemeyer, Nelli Busz, Meret Recker, Roxanne Radovanovic, Justine Döring, Dominik Bendig, Maximilian Ziegler, Michael Franusic, Tom Klinkicht, Lena Beckmann, Felix Schulte, Josephin Veldkamp, Nina Wolter, Laura Kasteleiner, Marlin Rau-Meiswinkel, Alina Ebner, Vanessa Engelmann, Nina Sentis, Anne Köppl, Valentin Joris Frisch, Gernot Gleiss, Alev Bicici, Elena Crotti, Selinsu Kara, Jonas Vandepitte, Yuliya Gaydamachenko, Maurice Jürgensen, Janina Schentek, Patrick Brandyk, Dominika Chrosciak, Lisa Gerauf, Melina Breuer, Michelle Manns, Janis Bärmann, Karla Schmeckmann, Rica Weißenbruch, Anna Dairetzis, Sarah Boes, Yumeko Madlener