Just reading the itinerary for the Millennium Architecture Inward Mission brings on a surge of patriotic pride. The British Council-organised trip designed to show influential international visitors the best of recent British architecture is that rare commodity: a trade mission which actually looks like fun.
It seems as though the British Council has made up for the Venice Biennale fiasco earlier this year, when it abandoned plans to base the British pavilion on the new Jubilee Line Extension stations and take the exhibition on an international tour. At the time the failure to showcase such a massive feat of architecture and engineering seemed like a catastrophic missed opportunity. But the Inward Mission goes one better.
The Jubilee Line is on the tour, along with the host of delights which lie along the Thames. But as well as picture postcard destinations such as Tate Modern and the BA London Eye, the visitors will discover that 'ordinary' British architecture is currently of an extraordinary calibre: the scheduled stop for tea at the Great Eastern Hotel or dinner at Quaglinos will be remarkable for the surroundings as much as for the food.What's more, the mission really is designed to showcase British, as opposed to metropolitan architecture, taking Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and Walsall as well as London.
The only bad point about the trip is that so few people will get to go on it.Whereas the Venice Biennale and associated exhibition would have reached an audience of hundreds of thousands, only a handful of people will take part in the Inward Mission.
Perhaps the British Council's next project should be a joint venture with a specialist tour operator to market the Inward Mission itinerary to the paying public. The series of events which have meant that much of our most significant recent work has been devoted to tourist attractions - or in the case of the Jubilee Line, on the infrastructure to help us visit them - may never be repeated. It is time to seize the moment, and work towards making British millennial architecture as familiar a concept in tourism as French chateaux or Aztec ruins.