ONE SKETCH AT A TIME

Qatar Today - - CULTURE > DOHA DIARY - BY ABI­GAIL MATHIAS

Tim Makower is al­ways ex­plor­ing new di­men­sions to Doha and in­deed any av­enue of the world his feet find. “I've never been to this part of the city be­fore,” he smiles, of­fer­ing an ex­pla­na­tion for his de­lay. He scans the sur­round­ings, cap­tur­ing a men­tal im­age of the venue.

This is pre­cisely how Makower is. He makes sketches of street cor­ners and vis­tas of ci­ties like Doha. His cur­rent ex­hi­bi­tion at the Vir­ginia Com­mon­wealth Univer­sity Qatar ( VCUQ) showcases 100 sketches cre­ated over a num­ber of years of mak­ing Qatar his home. Of course, he has trav­eled back and forth to the UK many times. As a pro­fes­sional ar­chi­tect, he runs Makower Ar­chi­tects, a firm spe­cial­is­ing in ar­chi­tec­ture and ur­ban­ism, based in Doha and London.

De­spite a hec­tic sched­ule, Makower longs to sit in soli­tude for his sketches. He places his sketch­ing tools on the ta­ble for a quick glance. Th­ese con­sist of a pen-pen­cil, a thick black crayon, which he calls a "smudgy pen­cil," used to cre­ate shad­ows, and of course a few pens, as his jour­nal of­ten re­flects his thoughts.

He is con­stantly ex­plor­ing dif­fer­ent as­pects to ur­ban life. Last year, as part of the UK year of cul­ture, his firm par­tic­i­pated in a World jig­saw puz­zle set up at Har­rods London. The project grew out of Makower's close in­volve­ment in the de­vel­op­ment of Doha and cre­ated an in­ter­est­ing col­lage of the city.

Dis­cussing why he sketches, he says: “It is good to draw, it is a way of see­ing. The hand can think, just like the mind. As we pass through our daily lives, we miss so much - so much of beauty, in­ter­est and depth. We skate the sur­face and all too rarely stop to look and lis­ten to what lies be­neath.”

Makower's cur­rent projects in­clude a new apart­ment build­ing in West London, the Al Rayyan Gate mas­ter­plan in Doha, and a her­itage-led mas­ter­plan for Doha's city cen­tre. “Over the years I have worked on a lot of build­ings and mas­ter­plans. But es­sen­tially I am re­ally in­ter­ested in peo­ple and places,” he says.

He started keep­ing pocket-sized sketch­books in 2007. “In a way I've al­ways drawn. You can call this a mid-life cri­sis,” he says, se­ri­ously. “Though I used to sketch a lot as an ar­chi­tec­ture stu­dent, grad­u­ally life took over. I have a bad mem­ory and use sketch­ing as a mem­ory tool. When you cre­ate a sketch, the work is some­how em­bed­ded in your mem­ory,” he claims.

From a hobby the sketch­books have now "be­come a need" says the ar­chi­tect. He adds humbly, “In some cases, the draw­ings are okay. I could find some which have an un­der­ly­ing mean­ing, but mostly they are just sim­ple draw­ings.”

The themes in many of the books vary but most of the pages are filled with images of places. Many sketches are com­pleted in Norway, Doha and France. They also show how much the ci­ties have changed over the years. “The city of Doha has un­der­gone a huge trans­for­ma­tion,” says the ar­chi­tect, who is vo­cal about pre­serv­ing the old while mak­ing way for the new.

Makower's fam­ily seems to be made up of artists. His son Noah is an art stu­dent in school. Talk­ing about his own ob­ses­sion Makower says, “They see my sketches as one of my habits. I can be slightly rude, fin­ish­ing a sketch while the fam­ily is fin­ish­ing lunch.” His wife, Bella, is also an artist.

Sadly two of his jour­nals have been stolen and one lost, which greatly ag­i­tates Makower who treats them as an ex­ten­sion of him­self. His book ‘Touch­ing the city" deals with scale and will be out in Oc­to­ber. It is be­ing pub­lished in the UK and the US and in­cludes some of his draw­ings.

“Though I love the dig­i­tal age, there are a few draw­backs. For one, not enough peo­ple use their hands to sketch. I hope this ex­hi­bi­tion en­cour­ages young peo­ple in some way,” he muses

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