The state of Non-Completeness
As a motivator of the architectural imagination
Prepared by Postgraduate Student
Lawand Kamal Othman
Asst. Prof. Dr Amjad Ali
The University of Sulaimani
Department of Architecture
The complete: 4
non completete : . 4
Representations of the non-complete in architecture. 5
under construction. 5
the ruin. 6
designing the non complete. 6
The fragment : 8
Design solution/problem. 8
3. Conclusions :Reasons for creating the Non-Complete. 9
References : 10
Table of Figures
1 an architectural ruin (Non-Complete) 6
2 the tower of Babel 7
3 ideal forms. 7
4 design solutions make new design problems. 9
The state of Non-Completeness
As a motivator of the architectural imagination
When is a building finished? Or
rather, when does a building begin and cease to be finished?
Its publicly building is complete
when construction is finished. Architects goal is to make buildings
perfect and wish to keep it so permanently. And yet, buildings never
stay the same as built through the course of time. Their changes may be caused
by natural forces or artificial means, and may manifest physically or in
meaning. Perhaps one could imagine that architecture achieves a
‘finishing’ point at several moments in its lifetime, and in between these
moments, the architecture with – draws from its completed form and moves
towards a new kind of completion
in this opaper we will define the complete ans its
opposite the Non-complete and its forms then we will
discuss the questions pertaining to the reasons for attempting to create Non-
Keywords: incomplete, unfinished, architecture,
the complete as the central idea of
architectural creation and thinking represents
authoritative, consensus, being finished and stable.
The Non-Complete, on the other hand, is offered as an
ambiguous concept – not final, unfinished and unstable. Finish does synonym with
‘complete’, but it also refers to the finishing of a surface, or the «Completion of the manufacture or decoration (of an article)
by giving it an attractive surface appearance. Architecture prefers stability over uncertainty, fullness rather than
partiality, and the complete rather than the Non-Complete.
is a state we form is not copying nature and its not targeting to create a
new stability; it is a state of constant change, which contradicts complete
and the finished, and its not aiming stability and unity. The Non-Complete
condition preserves its independence without offering a beginning or an end
existing in a state of constant instability.
According to Venturi, the
unfinished, the juxtaposition of different elements without them melting
completely together to a harmonious unity, express an intriguing kind of
vitality and validity, and the unfinished form does not mean that the
architecture is less achieved. On the contrary, the complexity that this
ambiguity represents triggers and challenges the intellect in the reading of the
architecture more than a ‘resolved’ building does, and therefore makes the
architecture more compelling (Venturi, 1977).
2.1 The complete:
The core values against which
completeness is measured are: function, esthetics and ethical standards.
• ‘function’ indicates a
finished product which is productive, cost-effective and efficient;
• ‘esthetics’ means harmony, unity,
integrity, centrality, stability and clarity of intention;
• ‘value’ signifies preference
for architecture that reflects majority opinion, serves the agents of power in
society, represents the moral good.
Phaedros: Here are the most significant attributes
of the perfect creation. Socrates: Only architecture has need of them, and
elevates them to the loftiest heights. Phaedros: I think it to be the most
perfect of the Arts (Plato, 2000).
complete in architecture represents some basic rules and mesurements, the
whole and its parts, and the relationship between various elements of the
cosmos, between nature and man (Bar-ali and Pliouchtch,2012). as architecture, is aimed to design and serve the
needs of human beings, in compliance with the laws of physics as well as all
sorts of laws and regulations.
of this can be seen in how computerized imaging software is designed. Programs
focus on improving the speed, economy and efficiency in which architecture can
be presented realistically, with the emphasis on representing the finished
product. Programs that improve the presentation of the process and the initial
sketch are still non-existent (Spiller, 1998).
The concept of the complete
resonates with religious thinking, and is prominent in Christianity and its
values, for instance: centrality, linearity, hierarchy, and the desire for
redemption. The typology of temples and churches reflect these values?? in how
their space is organized. These structures represent power and authority that
of God and that of the Church. The mechanisms for creating this are:
centrality, symmetry, hierarchy, development along a central axis, a preference
for self-improvement and progress towards that goal along a timeline. All these
represent the values of the complete. The search for ‘shape’ in architecture has traditionally been attracted
to mathematical and scientific methods, including quantitative data analysis,
diagrammatic analysis, and other types of analysis which enable the creation of
shapes based on objective and proven data. Another acceptable approach when
seeking the formal architectural model is to turn to nature as a proven model
of effectiveness and correctness. In the sense that: if it has already been
tried successfully in nature, the man-made counterpart should also be
successful. Nature offers symmetry, growth in accordance with a series of
defined shapes and natural logic.
2.2The non completete :
Non-Complete is described as a concept
that stands in resistance to or negates the values? mentioned before in the
complete section of this paper the non complete represents a bold,
argumentative, critical and experimental concept; not as an idea that is
opposed to architecture, but a state that motivates imaginanion and takes
architecture to stay in a state of continuous changing between completed
non-complete. architecture finds itself in a unique situation when dealing with
the Non-Complete; it resists, but paradoxically also allows and encourages it
(Vesely, 2004). The Non-Complete does not try to imitate nature or create a new
stability, but encourages a state of constant change Basically, it is possible
to see the Non-Complete from two different angles. The first views the
Non-Complete as being part, or a remnant of a past which no longer exists; one
that had been rich in achievements, but which exist no more. The other angle
perceives in the Non-Complete a hint or a proposal for a different and better
future, full of life and poetic/symbolic possibilities (Middleton, 2001). It
also preserves its independence, without offering an end or a beginning, just
constant change, with no desire to reach the end (Tschumi, 1996). and
comprehensible idea in art, but architecture naturally prefers the complete and
the stable both physically and conceptually. Thus, the Non-Complete is strange
in architecture, especially if it has been constructed. According to Eisenman,
when one feels the incompleteness of a finished structure, then one is under
the influence of a paradoxical experience. When the parts that constitute the
whole are clashing, the feeling of incompleteness contradicts the reality that
the structure is, in fact, a finished and fully enclosed space (Hoteit,
Nonetheless, there is still much evidence and many examples of Non-Complete
architecture throughout history.
2. 3 Representations of the non-complete in
2.3.1 under construction
When a building is still under construction, and sorrownded with
scaffolding and plastic, imagination works tocomplete its form and materials.
This in-between phase is where the building motivates hundreds of different
states of completeness through eyes of viewers and pass by pedesterians (Gjermstad,
It stands in the landscape like a sculpture, like pure form, like a
sketch where we can freely imagine how the work is to be completed, or simply
let that margin of unknown play in our sub-consciousness. The architect Jan De Vylder talks about his
fascination for the work on the building site. When arriving at the execution
phase, the building is already drawn many times, and each time the building is
drawn it is potentially finished. But as the drawings are done, and the project
begin to maintain a complete form, that is the first moment when one can start
changing things, because only then we can understand what we can or should
change (De Vylder ,2010) when we are constructing a building there are huge
opportunities to change it.
A building stays in the state of under-construction sometimes longer
that the daily ongoing proccess of the constructing. This might be called the
phasing of construction (Peña, 2001).
Phasing of construction may be considered as:
When the initial
budget is limited.
When the funds are
available over a period of time.
functional needs are expected to grow.
According to Kahn, the architecture reveals its
real identity and ‘personality’, when it is free from its everyday function.
This happens while the building is being built, but also when it becomes a
ruin, as the building is in both situations representing the unfinished. The
unfinished could be a way of expressing the essence of a building, a definition
of what is remains when function is detached from architecture.
2.3.2 the ruin
The ruin is the reminders and
remainders of a world that used to be, The ruin represents the struggle between
the constructions of man and the power of nature. We seek to construct and
complete, and nature starts to tear the constructions back down, and bringing
the remains slowly back to its origin. The human works to construct, heading
upwards, and nature is the force that drives that which human has erected to
descend, leading downwards. It pictures the destructive powers that are forcing
all architecture to falloff (Gjermstad, 2015),
When we see an incomplete and partially destroyed building itgives us the urge
to repair it, to reanimate, to complete. An act of creating and completeig its
form in our imagination. artificial ruins, called ruin follies. Follies were
small structures built for decoration, and are mainly found in English and
French garden tradition. They find themselves in the ambiguity between
unfinished structure and ruin. known example of such a folly, is the Temple of
Modern Philosophy near the Château d’Ermenonville, designed by Hubert Robert
and René-Louis de Girardin in 1770. The temple appears to be a ruin, but was
conceived as an unfinished structure deliberately imitating a ruin.
Figure 1 an architectural ruin (Non-Complete)
2.3.3 designing the non complete
designing non complete form or leaving a form incomplete has been an
intentional act by the designers and the builders to gain and achieve symbolic and
A known story from the perhaps first work of unfinished architecture
known to western literary tradition is the story of the Tower of Babel, known
from the Book of Genesis. According to the story, the people of God wanted to
create a name for themselves, and with increased faith in their own
capabilities and common knowledge, they were convinced they could build a tower
so tall that it could reach the heavens. The Lord interrupted the construction of
the tower, seeing the development as a threat to the people’s faith in him. He
then confused the people by giving them different languages, so that they were
unable to communicate, and scattered them all over the earth, so that they were
unable to continue the construction of the city (Bible
Gateway. Web. 25 Oct. 2012).
Figure 2 the tower of Babel
The constructions of man will always be imperfect, inadequate or
incomplete, because we are not able to understand fully, nor create something
that is more complex than our understanding. the earthly forms are mere
unfinished and simplified copies of the ideas. only is a ‘copy’ or an image of
the world of ideas. No one has ever seen a perfect circle, nor a perfectly
straight line, yet everyone knows what a circle and a straight line are. Plato
utilizes the tool-maker’s blueprint as evidence that Forms are real, perceived
circles or lines are not exactly circular or straight, and true circles and
lines could never be detected since by definition they are sets of infinitely
Figure 3 ideal forms
Plato believed that we only recognise
Particulars because of resemblances they hold to their Forms. That in mind
leads us to the believe that a form in never complete and always a non-complete
version of the perfect form.
the way we perceive things is only an incomplete understanding of
things. According to Plato, the insight to understanding the ideal world could
still be achieved—if not completely, then at least partially—through what he
called good sense, which can again be obtained though the study and practice of
philosophy (Tranøy, 2014).
When the architecture is left
unfinished, we still have the memory of the intention in mind, and perceive it
as unfinished. When it is put into service, we can see that despite the
unfinished form, that it can serve its function completely. Our understanding
of its ‘whole’ develops over time, the unfinished character still visible, but
nonetheless we accept it as an entity. The result is an ambiguous expression
between unfinished and whole.
The architecture historian
Neil Levine claims that literally unfinished architecture is a paradox in
itself, because even though a building is visibly unfinished, it can still
fulfil its purpose and
therefore, be understood as ‘complete’.1 The notion
of unfinished in regards to the architectural form can therefore be argued only
to relate to architectural intention. Turning the question around, the building
is unfinished according to who or what? The answer could be related to the
intentions of the architect or the wishes of the client, or simply the
expectation of a group of people involved in a project. These are all subjective
perceptions, which can change significantly during the potentially long life of
a building (Levine, 2006).
an example of this case is American
architect Louis Kahn was known for his extensive use of exposed materials, and
an ‘unfinished’ state. He was also known for his fondness for ruins, not only
esthetically, but as representing the conceptual essence of pure architecture.
The Kimbell Art Museum in Texas designed by Kahn (1966-1972) looks like the
ruins of a Roman Bath House, with many open and unfinished spaces which seem to
serve no purpose at all. The building is, to a considerable degree, pretending
to be archeological ruins; of a building in a state of non-use, Non-Complete.
The Phillips Exeter Academy Library in New Hampshire (1965-1972), also designed by Kahn, likewise represents values
of being Non-Complete. This idea is reflected in a lack of closure, the vacuum
in the center, corners that do not meet, the unfinished line of the roof, and
so forth. All of these indicate that the structure is in a constant state of
development and construction or, alternatively, that the structure is one of
ruins that are in a state of decomposition (Levine in Bergdoll, and Oechslin,
2006). Also in a similar case The Gothic cathedral, like Beauvais, for
instance, of which only the enormous choir was built, is frequently unfinished
in relation to its program, yet it is complete in the effect of its form
because of the motival consistency of its many parts (Venturi, 1977).
2.3.4 The fragment :
fragment or broken objects represents the loss of stability, harmony, and
wholeness. The fragment by itself is partial and incomplete. Fragmentation
suggests that wholeness have existed sometime in the past or point toward
completeness in the future . As such the fragments represent an unwanted
temporary condition. Metaphorically fragments represent moral breakdown, loss
of belief, detachment from tradition and the past, and alienation from all that
is good (Bergdoll & Oechslin, 2006). The fragment has the ability for duel
understanding. It can represent parts of whole in the process of becoming or
maturing into their future completeness or they can be exactly the opposite,
representing a whole in a state of falling apart and disintegrating. This is
expressed by Architecture historian Peter Carl in relation to Libeskind’s war
museum: “…in the light of his emphasis upon the centrality of conflict, as
a world both passing away and coming into being, under the dual forces of war
and creativity.” (Bergdoll & Oechslin, 2006).
deisgn cases a design solution itself creates another problem in a different effect.
it turns out to be the case that many of our contemporary designproblems are
themselves substantially the results of previous design activity (Lawson, 2005).
This dual connection of design problems and solutions in a factor of
considering a building as “non-complete”, as the design always changes
responding to new problems accurying on different periods of time.
We never stop
drawing a building. First we identify the design problems, after that the
procces of drafting the project comes up, and at the xcution phase all the
imaginary visions and ideas are brought to life by construction materials. The
building changes continuously and improves and adapts continuously. A building
is never identically typical to the drawn one before. after the end of the
contruction phase, one would say the building is finished, but actually it just
starts to live. First, it adapts to the people using it. Maybe they put in an
extra door or remove a wall. The building gets old, needs care, grows bigger,
lose weight. And every time a change is made we partly or entirely draw the
building again (Gjermstad, 2015).
4 design solutions make new design problems
:Reasons for creating the Non-Complete
from all the states that we have explained
we find that there are several reasons of existence or creating the non
the belief that reality itself is Non-Complete, and the understanding that the nature of reality
is non-structured and lacking continuity; therefore, the perception of complete is incompatible with
The powers of nature act as a deconstructive action that destroys
some parts of an architectural project and leaves it in a state of non
The undergoing procces of constructing a building specially
building that take a long period of time to complete
the non complete form as a goal for architect’s concept
4. References :
Werner Oechslin, Robin Middleton. (2006). Fragments : architecture and the
unfinished. Thames & Hudson.
(2015). On the unfinished in architecture.
Hoteit, A. (2015). Deconstructivism:
Translation From Philosophy to Architecture. canadian social science.
Jan De Vylder, Inge
Vinck, Jo Taillieu. (2010). architecten de vylder vinck tailleu.
Lawson, B. (2005). How
desidgenrs think. Elsevier.
Levine, N. (2006).
The architecture of the unfinished and the example of Louis Kahn. Fragments,
architecture and the unfinished.
Peña, W. M. (2001).
Problem Seeking: An Architectural Programming Primer. Wiley.
Plato. (2000). The
Republic. Cambridge University Press.
Tranøy, K. E.
(2014). On Plato and the Theory of Forms. Store norske leksikon.
Venturi, R. (1977).
Complexity and cotradiction n architecture.