Gregory Ronczewski is the Director of Product Design at TeamFit platform – view his profile on TeamFit
Top Image: Rynek Główny 13, Pasaż 13, Kraków, Poland. Photo credits: Gregory Ronczewski

 

Leonardo da Vinci died on May 2, 1519. He was sixty-seven. Mona Lisa was still by his side, sixteen years after he began working on what became the most recognizable work of art in the world. Was the painting finished? We will never know. Walter Isaacson in Leonardo’s biography writes this: “The most obvious evidence that he (Leonardo) was human rather than super-human is the trail of projects he left unfinished. Among them were a horse model that arches reduced to rubble, an Adoration scene and battle mural that was abandoned, flying machines that never flew, tanks that never rolled, a river that was never diverted, and pages of brilliant treatises that piled up unpublished. “Tell me if anything was ever done,” Leonardo repeatedly scribbled in notebook after notebook (…) “tell me if anything was ever made. Tell me.”

What triggered this post was an email containing an article titled The Beauty in the Imperfections of Ruins in Architecture by Dima Stouhi. “If walls could speak, they would have the most stories to tell – stories of antiquity, war, scandal, and reconciliation.” I agree – I was always attracted to places where you can see the past through the exposed surfaces.

I think it was 1999 or 2000 when I saw the new space the advertising agency I was working for was considering moving into. It was in the Landing, the first building on the North side of Water Street in Gastown, Vancouver. The office was occupied before by a design studio called Bazooka. There was a large opening in the brick wall connecting a few small offices with the rest of the interior. And as you would imagine, it looked as if they must have used a bazooka to make the opening: ripped apart bricks, unfinished, rough. And yet, the dynamic of the space was not destructive – quite the contrary. The interior had this hard to explain energy, full of possibilities. But there is a fine line between leaving something unfinished on purpose or incomplete. On one hand, the sense of completion, achieving a goal, the finish line or any other way to express the final state, but after the work is done, there is a void. It happens when you graduate. Suddenly there is nothing left to do. Perhaps that’s why we all like to leave something “unfinished.”

There is a difference between leaving something unfinished and never returning to it, and a path on which the work comes back, or rather the person who started the project comes back with new approaches. My grandfather—he was a sculptor, and a rather good one—had this “thing” that later got him into a lot of trouble. Too often, when one of his sculptures were taken from a museum to be featured at the art show, he would intercept them and “improve” to such a point that the officials from the lending museums were not able to recognize the returned artwork. I have no idea how he managed to avoid a court case. Let’s say, later on, no museum would lend any of his works if there was even a remote possibility that after the show is over, sculptures would not be immediately returned to the lender. Despite all the fuss around it, my grandfather never commented on this. He would just shrug his shoulders, pick up hammer and chisel and go back to work. Granite was his material of choice so obviously, once a change is done, there is no way back. In this case, the finished artwork was never truly finished, at least not in his mind. At the same time, he insisted that artists should never part with the pieces considered essential to their career. Those pieces form a journey, and without them, it is hard to find your way if you are lost in your artistic endeavours. However, it does not explain the changes or the alternative ending he wanted to create once reunited with his old work.

My point is the idea of change. Although we all like to finish the work, to ship the product, to complete the assignment, there is something positive if we leave the door open. Like in a movie, when the main character seems to die, but then, in the last scene, you can see him in the distance. The “what if” theory. I remember how hard it was to wrap the content of a CD-ROM and burn the final master. The relief and sense of completion were equally balanced by the fact that there is no way to make changes to the content which was disappointing. When the web-based projects arrived, the fact that the whole point is not to finalize it opened up the same thinking that motivated artists to extend the final moment of completion into the future.

CD-ROMs published by DNA Media won numerous awards for the concept, design and innovative approach to interactivity.

 

Now, I am not saying that leaving thing unfinished is a good thing. Nobody wants to use a piece of software that is not completed or an electric kettle that only works to a certain degree. Products should be finished. No question about it. Architecture is different. There is a potential to use the unfinished portion for the overall benefit. For instance, office spaces that allow the occupants to transform the interior according to changes in the team allocation and structure. The working elements of the interior are finished but what they form is not. We are using the same approach with our plans for Competency Modelling Environment and the Skill Profiling Section of TeamFit. Our position is to provide a set of finished elements which can be used to build unfinished models and profiles. Why unfinished? The dynamic of how the economy with various domains is changing almost daily suggests that the system used to capture the current and future skills needs to evolve continually. The model, or individual profile for that matter, should not be finalized because they will become irrelevant right away. Leonardo updated Saint Jerome in the Wilderness after thirty years when his understanding of anatomy clearly pointed to the part that was not true to the nature of the human body. He was not afraid to see his own mistakes, but even more, to acknowledge the change in his knowledge and act upon it.

When I started writing this post, I had a few stories that I wanted to cover. One was the story of a Danish chair designer and the time he dedicated to perfect the chair he as working on. Another had to do with how science is presenting us with an image of the world which is not completed, finished, but merely offering the best view that we have at the moment. I ended up with a different set of words. Is this post finished? I am not sure. I often regret when I hit the post button. I see how the story could be presented in a better/different way. For sure, I can edit the text and update post, but then I will probably end up changing the same post over and over. So the unfinished is my view on the subject matter discussed in this blog, and I am sure, dear reader, if you search and read what I wrote months ago, you will be able to reconstruct not only my reading library but also my views on the Competency Modelling. Those views are not finished though …