In recent years the concept of the 'Unfinished' in contemporary architecture has undergone a significant critical development and growing public interest. From a theoretic standpoint, the Unfinished is mainly associated with Umberto Eco's concept of 'Open work', stressing the arduousness of circumscribing a creative process, especially in relation to its conclusion. At the same time, attention to unfinished works has increased, especially in Italy, as a reaction to the huge number of unfinished public buildings. This trend, born with aims of denouncement, has often evolved unexpectedly into an aesthetic approach, summarized in the provocative statement: "the Unfinished is the most important architectural style in Italy since the second world war" (Alterazioni Video 2018).
In these contexts, the tendency has been mainly to present the phenomenon as typical of the contemporary age, limiting historical comparison to the Romantic fascination for ruins. Medieval culture is moreover usually mentioned as antithetical term of comparison for the postmodern Open Work. On the other hand, not even Medieval Studies have brought into focus the issue of unfinished architecture as a whole, also avoiding any theoretical reflection. A dialogue with the research on contemporary architecture could be fruitful on this point, for instance about the issue of the interrupted creative process.
The history of medieval architecture is, however, studded with episodes of abandonment of construction sites, often among the most daring projects (e.g. the planned enlargement of Siena Cathedral). The possible reasons are widely common across all ages: withdrawal of the patronage, death of the patrons, technical problems, lack of money, wars, and natural disasters. Grounds and modalities of building interruptions already represent an interesting research field. But an unfinished building site also offers a sort of still image of its construction process that exhibits portions of the structure that are normally destined to remain invisible, allowing technical information to be gathered. In addition, it is very difficult for an unfinished piece of architecture to reach us without undergoing transformations: from simple decline to late completion attempts, from the reuse of the structures to their absorption into the urban fabric, up to the musealization of ruins.
This workshop aims to draw attention to the unfinished works of high and late Middle Ages (11th-14th centuries) on the European continent with the tools of disciplines such as the history of art and architecture, archaeology, the history of building techniques, the history of restoration, archival studies and other related historical disciplines. The aim is not to limit the theme to the analysis of individual case studies, but to adopt, in addition, a wide-range of perspectives.
Topics for papers include, but are not limited to:
- reasons and modalities of building interruptions, also through individual case studies;
- the unfinished work as a "still image" of an interrupted process: building techniques and practices;
- the Nachleben of the unfinished works: late completions, reuses, museumizations;
- the unfinished works in contemporary documentation: how to find the words for a failed construction site;
- fortune and misfortune of the unfinished in art historical studies;
- theory and aesthetics of the Incomplete; disambiguation between unfinished and ruin.