Reckoning with Incompiuto Siciliano: Unfinished Public Works as Modern Ruins and All which it Entails

Arboleda, Pablo

Since the end of the 1950s, Italy has focused part of its modernization on the erection of public works. Due to corruption, mafia, and further malpractice, this form of development has occasionally failed, producing a high number of constructions that have remained unfinished for decades. In 2007, the group of artists Alterazioni Video constructed an informal survey in the form of an on-line tool open to public contributions, which revealed that there are 395 unfinished public works in Italy from which 156, approximately 39.5%, are located in Sicily alone. In view of such a statistic, Alterazioni Video opted to coin the term ‘Incompiuto Siciliano’ – literally ‘Sicilian Incompletion’ – to refer to unfinished public works as a formal architectural style. This re-interpretation, which aims to convey the recovered dignity of these ‘modern ruins’, considers unfinished public works a type of heritage with the potential to represent the entirety of Italian society. Furthermore, it goes as far as to say an unfinished public work is ‘Incompiuto Siciliano’ despite being located in another of the Italian regions. This doctoral dissertation embraces the artists’ argument to develop a complete study of Incompiuto Siciliano by embedding this architectural style/artistic project within the main debates on modern ruins at present. This is important because it is expected to contribute to the revalorization and eventual recommissioning of unfinished sites by validating Incompiuto Siciliano in the realm of academia. Furthermore, this work aspires to be a worthwhile source of information for future investigations dealing with cultural interpretations of incompletion in any other context – a not unreasonable goal considering how unfinished works are one of the key urban topics after the 2008 financial crisis. Hence, this doctoral dissertation uses Incompiuto Siciliano to discuss a different perspective in each of the five chapters and, though these can be read as independent contributions, the objective is that all chapters read together, form a clear, concise, continuous unit. And so it must be said this is not a dissertation about unfinished public works in Italy; this is a dissertation about Incompiuto Siciliano as an artistic response to unfinished public works in Italy – which clearly requires an interdisciplinary analysis involving Urban Studies, Cultural Geography, Contemporary Archaeology, Critical Heritage and Visual Arts.


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Arboleda, Pablo: Reckoning with Incompiuto Siciliano: Unfinished Public Works as Modern Ruins and All which it Entails. 2017.

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