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MARCH 31 - APRIL 1, 2023

The Tower of Babel, perhaps the original architectural fable, foretells the impossibility of architecture’s completion. The utopic final state dreamed by architects is such that its end never arrives, and may never be finished. This has precipitated lamentations of architecture’s seemingly permanent existential crisis, like a store continuously “going out of business.” Edward Said’s On Late Style identifies finishing as an awareness of coming to an end, yet without actually arriving there. Nonetheless finishing as a topic evokes the tendency to close down, to terminate, to desist, while remaining stubbornly under-theorized. Help us, then, expand the conceptualization of finishing and explain the practices of finishing in architecture along three currents: the surface, the project, and most broadly, architectural time itself.

Finishing up, finishing off, crossing the finish line. Is finishing the endpoint, or itself a process, a concluding stage? Architectural constructing and construing, not limited to the proverbial drawing board, defines a project, defines a building, but also spans an architect’s entire career, her oeuvre. Poetic acts can initiate and sustain architectural conversations when edifices exist in the public sphere, despite Winckelmann’s proclamation of the births and deaths of styles. For something to be complete (full or final), therefore, it need not necessarily be finished (ended), and vice versa.

Finishing also connotes perfecting – applying the finishing touches. Is the end, then, the completion of a design, checking off the punch-list at the end of construction, or does it continue through a building’s lifetime, perhaps even extending to its ruined state and beyond as spoils? Michelangelo’s work often embodies “the poetic of the non-finito,” demonstrating that an unfinished edifice may find “an elegant but incomplete” existence well past the point of being considered a work-in-progress. Unlike the unfinished, Marco Frascari (2015) posits that the non-finito exists outside of time.

This symposium proposes an agenda for theorizing finishing by asking participants to explore the topic through one or more of these three currents:

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1  Surfaces: Finishing as Polishing

      The flow of this current leads to questions of 'Detail' via: Material, Tactility and Craft.

2  Projects: Finishing as Completing

    The flow of this current leads to questions of 'Building' via: Concept, Completion and Reception.

3  Times: Finishing as Ending

     The flow of this current leads to questions of 'Architecture' via: Performance, Teleology and Oeuvre.

We invite submissions of scholarly and creative papers and/or creative and scholarly works. Individuals may submit both writings and works. All submissions will remain anonymous and blind peer reviewed. Email all proposals to

Submissions for either category should consist of not more than 532 words and three images in a .docx format. Specify in the email heading Abstract-Writing or Abstract-Drawing and the current to which it is being submitted (Surfaces, Projects, or Times). Individuals are allowed up to two separate submissions. In the body of the email, please include your name(s), institutional affiliation(s), four descriptive keywords, and a brief (100 word) bio of each author. In the case of multiple author submissions, only the submitting author will receive direct correspondence from the organizers.

Drawing abstracts should identify media (including electronic), size (in inches), 2-D or 3-D, and any special installation and exhibition instructions. While we will make all reasonable efforts to accommodate special installation instructions, unusual sizes or other complex requirements, we cannot guarantee they will be possible.

The symposium is planned to be held entirely in person at the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center. If health requirements preclude gathering in person, we will make a timely announcement at least one month before the event so that everyone can revise their plans for on-line participation.

The final version of accepted papers and drawings are due by Monday, 13 March, 2023. Full papers should be submitted as a PDF or a Word document. However, submission of the recorded presentation is optional with images not to exceed 20 minutes in length. During the conference, presenters will have 11 minutes to present a précis of their paper in person. The longer full paper will be available for all participants’ review prior to the conference. This format allows a more substantial discussion time for interaction among the conference participants.

The final version of accepted creative works will be hung in exhibition that will be open throughout the symposium. Makers may install their own work as arranged with the organizers on an individual basis.

Papers and creative works will be considered for a future publication following the symposium.

Important Dates
Abstract submissions due: Friday, 2 September 2022 at 11:59 EST at
Abstract acceptance notification: Friday, 2 December, 2022.
Final paper and drawing submission due: Monday, March 13, 2023 at 11:59 EST.
Symposium: March 31- April 1, 2023.
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