The Quality without a Name

Christopher Alexander's encouragement

«There is something in it of Divinity more than the ear discovers: it is an Hieroglyphical and shadowed lesson of the whole world, and creatures of God, such a melody to the ear, as the whole world well understood, would afford the understanding. In brief, it is a sensible fit of that harmony, which intellectually sounds in the ears of God.»

Architect Christopher Alexander described the concept of “Quality without a Name” in his 1979 book entitled The Timeless Way of Building (Alexander 1979)². Alexander advocates striving for this nameless quality in architecture: «There is a central quality which is the root criterion of life and spirit in a man, a town, a building, or a wilderness. This quality is objective and precise, but it cannot be named.» This way of thinking had a great influence on creative thinking in architecture. His book has cult status and is still much discussed today.

In the field of software engineering, a discipline of computer science that describes the architecture and programming of software applications, the so-called gang of four published the book Design Patterns (Gamma et al. 1994)¹ in 1994. The basic idea for this was inspired by the work of Christopher Alexander and was very influential in the field of software engineering in order to develop applications with a Quality without a Name here as well. This book has also achieved cult status in the IT community.

At the time, as a computer scientist, I was intensively involved with design patterns, but also with Christopher Alexander and his idea of ​​Quality without a Name. In fact, I’ve come to believe that his thoughts can be applied to all areas of human life. The term quality goes beyond what we understand as Quality and also includes form and function and other aspects that are relevant to the area under consideration.

For me as an artist, a work of art achieves Quality without a Name when the work has an instinctive aesthetic that communicates itself to the viewer. It doesn’t need any words or explanations. The work radiates a living presence, a reduction and yet wholeness. It shows a timelessness, as if it has always been there and will be there forever, just as it is, with no need for change. Any attempt to name the qualities that bring Quality without a Name to light is futile, for it cannot be dissected. People recognize it when it’s there, but can’t say why. I strive – in all modesty – to achieve this magical quality, knowing full well that the way there is the goal.

Fibonacci art accompanies me on the way to Quality without a Name. It stems from a centuries-old sequence of numbers, which in its mathematical simplicity and reduction produces fascinating and astounding structures. These are not only visible in my works, but also in nature, both in the animal and plant world. The underlying mathematics has an inherent timelessness and universal validity that secretly works its magic.

I would like to thank you, dear friends of art, for your company and your support on my way to Quality without a Name.

¹ Gamma, Erich; Helms, Richard; Johnson, Ralph; Vlissides, John (1994). Design Patterns. Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0-201-63361-2.

² Alexander, Christopher (1979). The Timeless Way of Building. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-502402-9.