Freehand drawing, which was once an important method of documenting architecture and culture, is a disappearing skill, and has been gradually replaced by computerized drawings and digital photographs. RIWAQ is dedicated to preserving this vanishing art, and the Tom Kay Award for freehand architectural drawing is one of RIWAQ’s primary ways to support this time honored skill.


The Tom Kay Award for freehand architectural drawing is a competition launched in 2008 in memory of British architect, Tom Kay. In 2001 Tom closed his practice in London, and moved to Ramallah with his wife Adah, to witness and record life under occupation during the second Intifada. He worked as a visiting professor at Birzeit University between 2002 and 2005. He joined RIWAQ as a volunteer in 2006.


Fascinated by Palestinian architectural heritage, Tom toured nearly all of RIWAQ’s working sites to explore the region and its architectural history. During these tours, he contemplatively and carefully sketched the region’s many historic buildings and sites. His affection for old buildings created a priceless collection of sketches of Palestinian historic architecture. In December 2007, Tom passed away in London, bequeathing a fund for this annual drawing competition.


Organized by RIWAQ, the Tom Kay Award supports Palestinian engineering students with the aim of encouraging them to spend less time in front of computer screens, and to carry their sketchbooks and pencils to explore, appreciate, draw, and document Palestinian architectural heritage. Each year, RIWAQ’s panel of artists and architects judge submitted drawings according to drawing and shading skills, sense of proportion, observation skills, ability to draw from reality, composition, and originality.