Unfinished Finished: Different Types of Architecture Seen Up Close
As it turns out, there are no styles in architecture. The word has become cumbersome, hackneyed, too slow for our times. It has become lost among its host of meanings. Yet fads are mentioned more and more, not even in reference to movements, or isms. For several years now we have been under the influence of the fad –many sustain- of the unfinished. In other words, leaving the guts of the building to be seen, minimal intervention, leaving previous lives of a building in sight rather than refurbishing them, re-use, re-appropriation and refurbishing of built work.
This new sincere image of the built work, more present in interiors and in work done on pre-existing buildings, touches upon the most direct relationship between functionality and appearance. Functionality is broadened to cover the spheres of the personal and the symbolic, the structure’s open expression, the tensions between the form, the bracing and the connections. Oftentimes the economic crisis has been attributed as the reason behind this aesthetic. Budgets have waned forcing finishings to be rethought and conscious choices to be made about where investment should be made. The increase in modest assignments and redesigns, and challenges posed by space have all been cited as causes.
It is however good to lend some thought to this non finito, unfinished or poorly finished aesthetic. We can however consider that, pictorially speaking, its usual ups and downs, it has remained current roughly for the last 500 years or more, having begun during the renaissance and continued the mannerism that ensued. It was most celebrated in abstract expressionism and action painting. Rembrandt said that artistic work finishes where the artist decides it does, and this is just what happens in current-day architecture. The decision to leave one part or another of a building in view is one of the few free choices architects can make amidst the host of limitations normally placed on building. It is an expression of singularity, not so much of the architect, but rather the unrepeatable symbiosis between space, users, and architects. This singularity, craft and ‘customised’ solutions have come to displace the collective spirit of major industrial series, meaning that works are now more expressive.
Architecture has begun to leave a pictorial trace that is reminiscent, in the opposite sense, of Vasari’s criticism of Titian’s work “…the initial works were done with finesse and incredible diligence, and can be seen from close-up and from afar. The latter, done metaphorically with a hammer, broad brush strokes and stains, cannot be contemplated close up while from far away they seem perfect.” You have to get up close to find those thick brush strokes and stains, just as Giacometti’s figures are contemplated, in that limbo between structure and its dissolving into our everyday backdrop.