It is a particular pleasure to be able to reach the Villa Lante this year, having rather carelessly broken a useful part of my anatomy last year. It is a great privilege that you have granted us the use of the Villa Lante, and I am enormously grateful to the President, the Prime Minister, and the Italian Government, for their generosity.
The only problem, I am told, is that the students find the environment almost too beautiful to work in. In this garden, here at the Villa Lante, representing in the terraces and water courses the progression from wilderness to civilisation, the students have been asked to consider what it is in architecture that contributes to civilisation.
In other words, what makes architecture civil? What lifts it beyond the purely functional and material and invests the built environment with those features, principles and truths which in some extraordinary way strike a chord in our hearts and which give us a sense of well-being, of harmony and of appropriateness? For, without these features - without these unique ingredients which have been handed down over thousands of years from one generation to another - we cannot, I believe, claim to be the true heirs of civilisation.
No amount of technological innovation or apparent inventiveness will make the slightest difference. On their own they will merely prove in the long run to be an illusion unless we rediscover how to reflect in our buildings some aspects of that inner world which, did we but know it, contain the quality of true beauty that link us all together.
The students by now may, I suspect, be somewhat confused. They have been asked to consider a great deal over six weeks. They have encountered a large number of different teachers with differing views. But what interests me is what unites the teachers. Hence my invitation to them to teach.
What unites them is the belief that architecture is about more than just doing what we think is right. In other words, a need first of all to pay heed to nature, to their own deepest feelings, and to the feelings of others. The teachers have tried to teach ways of recording what is around us, of understanding it and of holding on to what is valuable and true about it.
Each student would hope, I am sure, that when they leave here something of the timeless, ageless value and wisdom contained in the principles of traditional architecture will emerge in their subsequent work. That they will see their skills as being part of a link in that finely wrought chain which anchors us in both dimensions of past and present. As transcending the mere illusion of fashion and novelty which has, I believe, led directly to the critical environmental situation in which humankind now finds itself.
I suspect there is a great hunger among young architects for those principles which guided the builders of old. It is obviously impossible in six weeks to satisfy that hunger but I hope that the hunger will be the keener for the experience.
I hope that this Summer School might lay foundations for a larger, more permanent enterprise. I am more and more convinced this is necessary and I am working with a group of people who feel the same to see what can be done. I realise that we are only at the beginning of a long and rather arduous path. After all, it is always easier to destroy than to rebuild. It has taken 50 years to destroy the accumulated wisdom of thousands of years. So I am quite prepared for it to take at least as long to rebuild it - even if I have to be sent to a taxidermist in order to see it through!
The Summer School has proved the existence of an unsatisfied demand for the kind of learning and apprenticeship which is no longer available in current architectural schools. I would like to try and find a truly effective way of responding to that thirst for the missing dimension. To develop a means by which we can engender an appropriate architecture for the 21st century through research; through practical building experience; through craftsmanship; through the more sensitive use of modern materials; through enlightened humility; but, above all, through the application of those hard-won, wise and ageless principles gleaned from constant observation of the natural world and of the ways of the universe. It is only this kind of heartfelt approach which will, I believe, enable us to meet the awesome challenge we shall soon encounter."