This paper focuses on ‘incompletion’ as an ongoing continuum of urban making and un-making via practice-based research conducted in Sydney, Australia. The concept of ‘the incomplete city’ goes beyond the informal and formal urban economy dichotomy discussed by Guha-Khasnobis, Kanbur and Ostrom (2006). Practice-based researchers have contextualized ‘incompletion’ as an approach to understand cities in times of crisis, ruin or duress, while urban theorists, such as Saskia Sassen (2017) and Paul Chatterton (2010) point towards incompletion to understand complex social urban systems and the temporal and shifting plurality of cities. Contributions from art and architectural practice also challenge thinking about cities. Kyuryujo Tankentai’s (1997) sectional reconstruction of urban life in the Kowloon Walled City and CJ Lim’s (2017) axonometric reenvisaging of London both point towards an ephemeral quality to city incompletion, contextualized by fragmentation, discontinuity, transmission, and urban narration. This paper builds on these perspectives and addresses a gap in the theoretical understanding of the themes of ‘city incompletion’ using experimental graphic processes, drawing from graphic novel and architectural comic strip forms, as well as spatial diagramming and speculative image making. Changes over five decades of three inner-city case-study sites in the Sydney CBD have been interrogated with the aid of information from local government archival development applications, historic media, and web content. They have been reenvisaged as ‘alternate realities’ through scenarios that intervene at selected points in time, and through this, breach from the ‘urban possible’ into the ‘urban impossible’.
Jeffrey Tighe is a practice-based PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), researching ‘city incompleteness’ through experimental, visual narrative and speculative graphic practice-based research. Winner of the Australian Institute of Architecture (AIA) First Degree Design Medal 2015, Sydney Opera House’ Travelling Multidisciplinary Australian Danish Exchange (MADE) program in 2017 and AIA Byera Hadley Travelling Scholarship in 2019.