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Traveller’s Tales

Tim Makower

The no-man’s-land of flight gives time to reflect and relive significant moments

It is Sunday. Christmas is approaching. We are flying east, into the sunrise. Dawn is breaking over the Channel; it is easy, when flying, to take stock of one’s life. We can  be both in the here and now, and removed, somewhere in the clouds, looking down.

It has been a busy few weeks, many secret projects interwoven with Al Rayyan Gate, where our visions of the greenest place in Qatar are gathering momentum.

As usual I am thinking about Old Doha, which is my preoccupation (as opposed to my occupation). The Old Doha Prize last week was a wonderful success – the bubbling mix of competitors from the UK and Qatar unanimously seeking to repair and renew the precious fabric of those un-loved run-down streets – the original traces of Doha’s early growth and timeless roots. Bravo.  

Over the frosty fields of France, half­-obscured through cloud, a winding river ­ribbon of white gold catches the low winter sun while I mull over the new hospital project in Vellore, southern India. An ambitious brief for a paradise site, overlooked by the exquisite Golden Eye Hill, it is a place my mother visited some years ago. Money raised in a small church in Wiltshire went towards a new children’s therapy space there. I don’t not know what to expect yet, but when all is revealed in the new year it shows great promise.

It seems strange that hospital design is not generally seen as a high art form.  I wonder why masterpiece hospitals seem so rare. The technical and the poetic should not be in conflict; in fact, it should be the reverse.


Tim Makower’s sketch of Old Doha.
Tim Makower’s sketch of Old Doha.

Buildings are like bodies – skin and bones, organs and flows – and this is in many respects how we relate to them

I think of Aalto’s sanatorium, Siza’s Hospital de Toledo and Corb’s Venice Hospital: ‘A hospital is a house of man, just as the dwelling is a house of man. The key being man: his stature (height), his stride (extension), his eye (viewpoint), his hand, sister of the eye. His entire physical nature is tied up in it, in total contact with it’.  To lift the spirit and create an environment of health can only aid the work of a hospital. Buildings are like bodies – skin and bones, organs and flows – and this is in many respects how we relate to them. A building for health can be like a healthy body.

The mountains of Turkey are below now, dusted with snow. Their crumpled surface emerges from many lustrous lakes, shining at midday. Far off, the plume of a plane, smaller than ours, hangs in the air.

My mind still lingers on 10x10 – £90,000 raised for Article 25, 100 personal drawings coming ­together into a collective snapshot of the ­inner East End. What a venue, the Crossing at King’s Cross – an appropriate place to celebrate the city. My own drawing – All Change at Dalston Junction – was a pleasure to make: the meditative process of tracing lines, selecting and filtering, is fruitful re-creation.

Sheer slopes of the red Euphrates, lit by the setting sun, scrape the horizon. Nearly there.

Since leaving Allies and Morrison I have been building something from the foundations up. It is new territory; both exhausting and rewarding. My appreciation of the ­machinery of a practice has increased, and so has my faith in divine providence.

In the dusk we trace the coast of Qatar. We are coming in to land.  

Tim Makower is founder of  Makower Architects


Doha founded



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