26 July, 2006

62. Shonky workmanship, or something else?

If you walk around Venice with your eyes open you will see many examples of what appear to be the most slapdash cabling: fibre-optic TV cables snaking and dangling across the fa├žades of very nice old buildings; cables draped loosely over sculptures above doors, and looping across and right in front of windows; electricity cable stapled into the stucco up and across in front of a beautiful gothic window; surplus cable just rolled up and left hanging on the outside of a building instead of being pulled through and hidden. And so on.

You would think that in a place as historic as Venice that they would be more careful to be discreet in the way they connect up electricity or TV cables, but they appear to do the job less carefully than you would expect a tradesperson to do at home in a country toilet.

How could this be allowed to occur, when so much of what surrounds us in this city was created in previous centuries with passion, with love, with immense care, enormous talent, and obsessive perfectionism? Have standards fallen so far that Italian tradespeople no longer know how to do a job right, or even care how they deface these historic places?

But what if it isn't incompetence? What if the laws against punching holes in ancient buildings to thread cables through, or carving channels in walls to bury and hide them, are so restrictive, so impractical, that leaving them exposed on the surface is economically the only thing that cablers can do? What's more, leaving them exposed in this most blatant way may be a silent protest against the regulations, perhaps cumulatively eloquent enough to force a relaxation of what is allowed.

There is another possibility, one that could be closer to the truth than either of the others. It may just be that this is another example of Venice and its inhabitants taking a longer view than other cities. It may be acceptable to feed TV cables to buildings in Venice in a crude and clumsy way like this, because they know that any technology is temporary, and it will change. Cable is the technology we need TODAY for this service, ugly and cumbersome though it is, but tomorrow is another story. The moment wi-fi services deliver TV, these cables will be redundant, and they can simply be unhooked and taken down again. No damage to the building installing them or removing them.

So the cables are a bit ugly for a few years. So what? Venice has endured a lot worse.


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We noticed the same thing in Spain.

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