On Quality

June 1, 2023

I have been thinking a great deal about the concept of quality since I joined John Marsh on his Redemptifcation podcast last week. We were discussing some recent travels and John said something to the effect of “eating a meal outside in Italy is to have an immersive education in quality.” This idea now lives in my head.

I believe we all aspire to have more quality in our lives. I would even argue that the more things of quality we have in our life, the better off we are. When something is of quality, we tend to take care better care of it. It’s our relationship to the things we care for that defines much of our lives. I spend time tending to my work, my family, my home, and my physical and mental health. And while those various things remain in decent shape, I will remain happy and well. If any of those things start to decline or deteriorate, so would I.

It is when we do not have enough in our lives that requires our love, attention, and maintenance, that people become unwell. We need attachments, we need things to care for, and we are better off when we have people,  places, and things to look after. If a person had nothing in their life to tend to, nothing of quality to be concerned about, I think it’s safe to say- they would be struggling and suffering.

Whether or not the concept of quality is subjective, I still can’t decide, but it appears the more we have in our lives that we perceive to be of quality, the happier we are. So thinking back to eating outside in Italy. Quality was on full display. It was in the food, in the wine, in the street, in the sidewalk, and in the buildings. Every inch of our setting oozed with quality, it’s what makes the meals so special, and it’s also very simple.

Quality comes down to three simple attributes. Real local ingredients, skill, and patience. The cheese on our plate was not rushed. It took an expert months to get it just right. The salami beside it could not be hurried or it would not have been as good. The wine in our glasses required someone with skill and time to nurture it into what it became. The cobbles that make up the street were quarried nearby and installed by someone with a great deal of expertise. The buildings that surrounded us were all constructed using local, durable materials, clearly by people with incredible skills that took their time getting it right.

When natural local ingredients are coupled with patience and skill the results are inevitable. Quality is the result. This is true for cooking and for designing our places. When we stick to these simple basics, it’s hard to go wrong. It’s rare that someone with skill, taking their time, and using local ingredients misses their mark.

We must remember this when we consider how we go about designing our communities. Fast food will never be good food because it is rushed. It makes people unwell. Hastily built places are no different. When we slap up cheap buildings and streets, we ensure it is of low quality and we can also be sure it will make those that inhabit it unwell.

There just isn’t a secret to this stuff. No shortcuts. The path to success is always the same and if we want to create places that are of quality and worthy of our habitation, we have to slow down, use real, local materials and trust in people who have honed their skills. We grow attached to the things in our life that are of high quality and we take care of those things. We tend to them, we are proud of them. It’s time we build our places once again with the concept of quality in mind. We want residents to grow attached, to feel passionate about preserving them, and most off, feel proud to call those places home.

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