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Finding

Time
Tim Makower

What has our sense of the acceleration of time got


to bear on our experience of cities? How might
it be consciously countered by architects finding
time through thoughtful design and measured
observation. A self-declared cultural polymath,
Tim Makower is the founder of Makower
Architects. A partner at Allies and Morrison for
many years, he has significant experience in
leading large-scale projects, ranging from the
Kings Cross Masterplan in London to the Old Doha
Regeneration Framework, which he draws on here
and in his book Touching the City: Thoughts on
Urban Scale (Wiley, 2014).

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We dwell in time as much as in space, and architecture mediates equally our relationship with
this mysterious dimension, giving it its human measure.
Juhani Pallasmaa, Inhabiting Time, see pp 5059
The desire to catch the moment and to leave something behind us is part of the creative process.
It results in products of creativity; objects that are outside of ourselves, and that to some extent
have a life of their own. A piece of architecture is different from a tune, a poem or a painting in
that it generally arises from the needs of third parties a living client with a living brief. This is a
significant part of its temporal dimension; the push and pull of design and construction, and the
hard realities of a design team working in a competitive environment finding time. Indeed, it is easy
to disagree with Friedrich von Schellings mantra that Architecture is frozen music1 because frozen
is something it never is.

Central Business
District,
West Bay,
Doha,
Qatar,
2012
Dohas West Bay is a good
example of fast urbanism;
like fast food it seems to lack
substance. But unlike food, as
a piece of city, it can continue
to mature from generation to
generation, and improve with
age, even though its individual
buildings alienate themselves
from their context in terms of
culture and climate.

The pursuit of time surfaces in this issue in two themes that run between the essays: firstly the
dynamic nature of architecture; and secondly the continual overlap between the process and product
of design as a factor, and a vector, of time. It can be argued that the creative process stems from
the desire (the need) to externalise what is within us, and thereby to a greater or lesser degree, to
defy time; to challenge mortality even. Time expands and contracts and, like the flow of traffic on a
highway it accelerates and decelerates, at least in our perception. Sometimes, when empty, a day can
seem to drag. When full, a week can feel like a day in the present, and a month when looking back.
The aim of this Counterpoint, Finding Time, in contrast to what has already been written, is
to examine three aspects of our experience of time in cities that are fundamentally part of our
perception of the urban environment and, for those who are involved in architecture or urban
design, should inform our thoughts and actions as designers: firstly newness, speed and finance;
secondly the patina of age; and thirdly the temporary and ephemeral stuff of cities.

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I Want it New and I Want it Now


The all too familiar challenge of vast-scale, fast-track
developments creating urban environments with shallow (or no)
roots, with scant chance of improving with age, is compounded
by the fact that it is often cheaper to throw buildings away and
build new ones than to retain and renew old ones.
It is a dead end, however, to look back with nostalgia at the days
when development was on a smaller scale, and slower. Market
forces are natural; they are like lifeblood pumping in a body. As
designers we should embrace them as an essential part of the
development process, but focus with ever-increasing insightfulness
on the product of what we are creating and how it is experienced,
not by us as designers but by the public, who have no knowledge
or interest in design, other than their own perception and
intuition. If developments such as West Bay Dohas Central
Business District can be created in less than a decade, the
question is not how can it be slowed down?. Rather we must ask
how can we emulate those aspects of the slow-grown city that we
enjoy, and which are beneficial to individuals and communities?.
The desire to develop fast and on a large scale is not in itself
negative; the question is how.
As Kevin Lynch has pointed out: At the present tempo of
building, there is not time for the slow adjustment of form to
small, individualized forces. Therefore we must depend far more
than formerly on conscious design: the deliberate manipulation of
the world for sensuous ends.2
The term urban picturesque is not much used, but is indeed the
key to satisfying both the crude forces of time and money, and the
more refined sensibilities of designers, planners, visionaries and, of
course, of the person on the street. When a large-scale high-speed
project brings dehumanising degrees of repetition or regularity,
Lynchs conscious design can step in to irregularise; to patinate
the urban realm, even if it is all new. If intellectuals worry that
the picturesque veers towards the inauthentic or irrational, they
need to explain what is rational about creating a place that is
monotonous or alienating, and redefine their terms.
As we know, time is money, and building fast is often treated as
a priority of the highest order. Incremental phasing, however, is
also a key to success. The ability to go slow to wait, to catch
the wave, to balance supply and demand is an essential part of
sustainable development in the economic environment to achieve
the long-term success without which other aspects of sustainable
design would be foundationless.
While a conscious use of picturesque urbanism is necessary to
humanise large all-new developments, another essential tool is a
robust and flexible framework, broken down into small pieces
that can be developed over many years (or all at once) and can
to some extent take on a life of their own organised chaos. My
own experience of two major masterplans those for Londons
Kings Cross and Msheireb in Doha that I led as a partner with
Allies and Morrison, both 800,000-square-metre (8.6 millionsquare-foot) mixed-use projects that are now more than half
complete exemplifies the need to divide and subdivide. Of the
two, Msheireb is more literally like history speeded up, but the
fact that many architects have been used over a multilayered

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Argent,
Allies and Morrison and Porphyrios,
Kings Cross Masterplan,
London,
due for completion 2020
above: The Kings Cross urban regeneration masterplan was designed
specifically to be able to go fast or slow in response to the property
market without jeopardising its commercial success. The flexibility of
most of the northern blocks (right-hand side of the model) to be built
over time as either residential or office space was also an essential part
of its responsive financial model.

Makower Architects,
Zones 15 and 16,
Al Ghanem-Jadeeda Development Framework,
Doha,
Qatar,
2015
The heritage-led regeneration framework for this rundown old neighbourhood in central Doha proposes
a strategy for patchwork repair of an established
streetscape. Its historical fabric is retained, renewed,
augmented and enriched with a combination of new and
old structures, at both large and small scales.

Allies and Morrison,


National Archive and Radwani House,
Msheireb,
Doha, Qatar,
due for completion 2018
below: Msheireb as a masterplan was an extreme case of
history speeded up, with an intricate woven plan of 800,000
square metres (8.6 million square feet) being designed and
built in less than a decade. Nevertheless, many of its buildings,
such as the National Archive, are embedded among original
buildings and historical street patterns.

plan ensures that a fine degree of complexity and character


can still be achieved. A robust plan will enable development
to move fast, but will not be ruined by it if it does, provided it
enables architectural packages to be broken down into bite-size
chunks.

On the Beauty of Ageing


I was brought up on the assumption that old buildings were
better than new ones. New ones were just too new. It took a
while to acknowledge that buildings are commodities and that,
like cars, new ones are generally preferred to second-hand.
There is of course nothing wrong with newness in buildings,
provided they are designed to age well, and old buildings and
streets, with their special textures and atmospheres, are not
thoughtlessly thrown away to make space for the new without
an understanding of their qualities and their value. It is an ideal
for most people to age gracefully, and the same can be said of
buildings.
In terms of ageing, there are three kinds of buildings. Firstly,
those that degrade with age; their material, their fabric and
their resonance diminish. Secondly, those that seem not to
age; they are impervious, splendidly unresponsive to external
influences. Thirdly, the ideal for the long-term benefit of city
making is to create buildings that get better with age, century
after century.

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Even scars, sometimes traumatic, can be part of the quality of


a building. The Exhibition Road facade of Londons Victoria
and Albert Museum is blasted with shrapnel wounds from
the Blitz, and this is indeed part of its quality, both on the
surface and within. Interestingly, this will be lost with the new
scheme now under construction will this bring with it a loss
of memory?
The beauty and patina of urban ageing has no equivalent.
Cities, unlike people, do not die due to ageing. If properly
looked after, they can continue to get better and better into
the future without limit. The masterplan for Al GhanemJadeeda in Doha, where Makower Architects is setting out
a heritage-led regeneration plan for the local authority, is
an immediate challenge in terms of embracing the ageing
process and making a collage city possible. This is an area
the size of Londons Soho and Covent Garden combined
where uncontrolled low-grade development is leading fast
to the destruction of one of Dohas last largely intact historic
neighbourhoods. Our aim is to redefine the meaning of the
word value, helping landowners to realise that financial and
cultural value overlaps and is multiplied if a long-term, more
complex view is taken. A carefully balanced combination of
large- and small-scale developments, and both old and new
building fabric, offers an equivalent of the current free-forall in quantitative terms, but something of infinitely more
profound and significant value in terms of quality.
I have likened the saving of historical fabric, and promoting
bold contemporary interventions in existing buildings, to
using an expensive spice to make a tasty meal. It costs more in
time and money initially, albeit in small quantities, but gives
far greater value in the long term, as evoked by Jane Jacobs:

Henry Cole Wing,


Victoria and Albert Museum,
Exhibition Road,
London,
2012
The shrapnel scars from the Second
World War have been left on the
stonework of the V&A as a living piece
of urban memory. It is good when
buildings can absorb and assimilate
the lichens, erosions and patinations
of time and even bomb blasts
sometimes as part of their natural
ageing process within the city.

Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible


for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them.
By old buildings I mean not museum-piece old buildings,
in an excellent and expensive state of rehabilitation
although these make fine ingredients but also a good lot
of plain, ordinary, low-value old buildings, including some
rundown ones.3
Before moving on from the subject of ageing, we must
mention the idea of timelessness. This hard-to-define notion
has been raised several times in the essays of this issue of 3,
but not specifically in relation to ageing, or fashion. Fashion
is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as the latest
style. It is by nature passing. It is a shame if the value of a
piece of design is lost through the ageing process and thus it
is desirable to transcend fashion, even when embracing it. Is
it a noble goal to achieve an architecture that is neither oldfashioned nor fashionable? Is this timelessness?

Breathe Deeply

It is a shame if the value


of a piece of design is lost
through the ageing process
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A third aspect of time as we experience it in architecture and


urbanism, which is easy to forget, and is not easy to take
account of as a designer, is the ephemeral or passing aspects
of the built environment. As designers we often think the
ephemeral is not our concern. However, the cafe facade that
folds away when the weather is good, the array of shopfronts

Regent Street,
London,
2015
A street that is closed to traffic
for only four days a year takes on
a new dimension in the memory
of those who experience it in its
pedestrian-only state, whereby a
new sense of belonging is created.
The change is as dramatic in the
life of the city as it would be if
a street were roofed over and
became a forum or an agora, even
if just for a moment.

alive with change and bristling with the cacophony of competing businesses,
and the street that is pedestrianised once a month in the summer; these
things are like the city breathing.
It is easy to think of architecture as a process of defining things with
a physical fabric, but often it is better to blur the boundaries between
the designed and un-designed, and treat the design of buildings as a
beginning rather than an end. As Guest-Editor Karen A Franck states in her
introduction to this issue: Embracing time in architecture means embracing
change.4
The seasonal quality of a city and the changing life-patterns of buildings
underpin and oversail their forms, their spaces and their surfaces, becoming
over time as much part of their nature as the bricks, concrete or glass from
which they are made.

Embracing
time in
architecture
means
embracing
change.
Karen Frank

Fast Living, Measured Thinking


In conclusion, while history is being speeded up, a complementary parallel
process of thoughtful design and intense observation will enable time
to be slowed down in the minds and drawing hands of those of us who
design cities. We only have to look hard at the combinations of old and
new, large and small, temporary and permanent, and fast and slow in the
streets and spaces that surround us to find clues towards emulating time in
urbanism, whether this is by allowing the city to evolve on its own, or with
a conscious use of the urban picturesque.
When considering buildings, and groups of buildings that make up the
streets and spaces of the city, it is important to think of perception and
memory before we think of substance; to operate as part of a collective
rather than as an individual, in order to engage fully with time, that
mysterious dimension, which gives architecture its human measure.5
On this basis, it is reasonable to say that there is no perfection without
imperfection, no purity without impurity, and no reason without a good
measure of the intuitive, and often the irrational too. 1

Notes
1. Friedrich von Schelling, Die Weltalter,
181115 (The Ages of the World), trans
Frederick de Wolfe Bolman, Jr, Columbia
University Press (New York), 1967, p 163.
2. Kevin Lynch, The Image of the City,
MIT Press (Cambridge, MA and London),
1960, p 116.
3. Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of
Great American Cities, Random House
(New York), 1961, p 187.
4. Karen A Franck, Designing with Time in
Mind, see pp 817 of this issue.
5. Juhani Pallasmaa, Inhabiting Time, see
pp 5059 of this issue.

Text 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images:


p 136 Donna MadFadyen; pp 13741
Tim Makower

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