Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Quality without a Name – Going Deeper Part I

Continuing with the theme established in the last article, What speaks to you? Sustainability beyond Buildings, we’ll further examine Alexander’s quality without a name. These qualities are inherently timeless because they are applicable throughout the ages. Alexander dedicates his book, The Timeless Way of Building “to you, mind of no mind, in whom the timeless way was born.”

The book establishes a method for creating places using natural patterns that evolve from an egoless state of mind. The natural patterns already occur, giving “…every place is given its character by certain patterns of events that keep on happening there.” Alexander asks us to tune into the delicate network of energy inherent in places. He compares this process to an embryo’s development, each cell divides in orchestrating growth. Further illustrating that “those of us who are concerned with buildings tend to forget too easily that all the life and soul of a place... depend... on patterns.”

The quality without a name emerges when patterns are able to develop on many scales from rooms to regions. He provides an image of a warm peach tree, “flattened against the wall, and facing south. At this state, the whole town will have this quality, simmering and baking in the sun of its own processes.” The quality can be seen in an oak tree, each unique in its creation like a “town which is whole… must be unpredictable also.”

The Pattern Language is the companion book to The Timeless Way of Building. In a Pattern Language, Alexander details numerous qualities that can be used in conjunction to create the places detailed in the Timeless Way of Building.

…by using languages which I call pattern languages. A pattern language gives each person who uses it, the power to create an infinite variety of new and unique buildings, just as his ordinary language gives him the power to create an infinite variety of sentences.

The language does not really consist of words or letters, but metaphorically represents the intense complexity that makes our elements and world. As letters are combined into words and then strung together to make sentences or speeches, A Pattern Language is the synthesis of intimate connections within our world. Alexander’s pieces call for a vision and mental state to view existing spaces as they truly exist in order to develop new unique enriching places.