I am sitting with a gin and tonic on the roof terrace of the Hotel Danieli in Venice. I view extremely expensive boats ambling down the Giuduecca with their owners sipping champagne, taking in the early evening view of the city from the water.From my static vantage point I can see across to the Lido and, as I turn my head to the right, the Salute church, the Grand Canal and the flush wall of the Doge's Palace.
It is views like this that cause people to say that modern architects are incapable of producing anything like the quality and desirability of this vista. Of course, in modern times, so-called project managers would not allow any client to build a city on a swamp.
The patrons of the architects were well educated, which made the architect's task easier, and the builders knew how to build the designs.
Today, sadly, there are no large contractors who are builders.They do not know how to do anything. They never admit to this, they simply overprice everything they do not like, so it breaks the budget. I digress.The sensuous experience of this place is something that appeals to all and the resultant complaint about the abilities of the current generation is understandable. It is not that we do not have the ability, it is more that the society of which we are a part has no appetite for the extraordinary.
In reality, society does, but it does not allow itself to indulge in such fantasy. It is only the fantasy of the stock market that is allowed to exist. We are all creators who respond to ecstasy, experience and desire. Why deny ourselves these relatively simple pleasures?
To the east of where I am sitting are the Gardini, which is one of the venues for the Biennale. I have only just arrived and, as yet, have not visited the exhibition. What I know from past years is that it is full of beautiful ideas and projects by architects from around the world. In fact, you know that the majority of the work will never see the light of day, and of those projects that do, they will be watered down to such an extent that their original vitality and appeal will have disappeared. A small handful will be realised with the original ambition. It could be argued that one of the major skills of the modern architect is the power of persuasion to keep everyone focused on the maintenance of the qualities of the work.
The Biennale, which seems to have been resurrected two years ago by the curatorship of Massimiliano Fuksas, is a major meeting point for the world community of architects.
It is to architecture what MIPIM is to estate agents and developers. The conversation flows, with the aid of wine, across a variety of topics. There is an air of idealism, which never goes amiss, as this is one of the qualities which is so sadly absent in many of the offices and studios that the erstwhile architect has briefly left for this heady climate.
This year's theme is NEXT, set by Deyan Sudjic. I never asked him why he chose this, but I can imagine that he was wanting to show evidence of real things that are happening or will happen. I have Barnsley on display, which could not be considered without the support, enthusiasm and patronage of Barnsley council and Yorkshire Forward. Perhaps we will see a little ultramodern Italy in South Yorkshire. It would certainly silence the critics of the current generation, including my mother.
WA, from the roof terrace of the Hotel Danieli