Young architect's 'concrete playground' wins international recognition

Jonah Howley's design for a concrete playground.

Jonah Howley's design for a concrete playground. - Credit: Jonah Howley

A budding St Albans architect's concept of a 'concrete playground' has featured in the latest issue of a prestigious international design journal.

Jonah Howley is an apprentice with Welwyn Garden-based practice Saunders, who he joined in 2019 after his A-Levels. On the hunt for work experience, he was snapped up by the firm and embarked on their apprenticeship scheme.

He has now just completed his first year studying architecture at London Southbank University (LSBU) where he is financially supported and mentored by the Saunders team.

Jonah Howley

Jonah Howley - Credit: (c) Svetlanafeo |

Jonah's design concept for a ‘concrete playground’ was picked for inclusion in the university’s end of year show and received subsequent media coverage in journal Dezeen.

When challenged to design a celebratory space for a community coming out of lockdown, Jonah chose an area in Lambeth, South London that had been hard hit by business and leisure closures.

Local residents had been unable to enjoy the South Bank studios, nearby Borough Market and The Cut, so Jonah designed a ‘concrete
playground’ that was in keeping with the local style but offered an urban place 'to play' allowing for learning, socialising and experimentation for children and adults alike.

Jonah said: “Having my work highlighted is such a positive start to the early stages of my career. I’ve put a lot of effort into getting ahead, including many late nights researching and learning, and it’s great to be recognised for this.

"I have to thank my mentors and the support that I get from Saunders. They have really had a huge impact on me and my training, teaching me what I need to know at this point of my career.”

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A spokesperson for Saunders added: "It is a great accolade which recognises his talent, dedication, and a lot of late nights juggling studying with training."

Some of Jonah's designs for the concrete playground.

Some of Jonah's designs for the concrete playground. - Credit: Jonah Howley

Jonah will be spending the summer working at Saunders and learning more about the technical elements of architecture before heading into the second year of his course at LSBU.

His ultimate goal is designing buildings that have a huge impact on society, but a low impact on the environment.