GP 50: Luke Jones, architect and eventer

Luke Jones and Soul at Burghley in 2006 – Jones was profiled in the GP 50 list
Credit : Private collection

Tuesday 04 September - 17h47 | Ian Clayton

GP 50: Luke Jones, architect and eventer

As Winston Churchill once said, "We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us." But for the architect Luke Jones, 'we' also means horses. The 44-year-old Australian is an expert in equestrian design, a savoir-faire nurtured by his experience as a top-level rider in eventing. 

 - GP 50: Luke Jones, architect and eventer

Boneo Park Equestrian Centre
Credit : C4 Architects

With his firm C4 Architects, based in Adelaide in southern Australia – host city of CCI **** Australian International 3 Day Event – Luke Jones has designed high-profile projects in the country. Among them, the Boneo Park Equestrian Centre south of Melbourne, located in an ecologically sensitive region.

For Jones, designing for horses is a personal affair: "Having interacted with them almost every day for 30 years, I believe I have developed an understanding that can be beneficial," he explains. "I am always aware that horses are herd animals that by nature prefer to be outdoors eating grass. It is important that buildings are compatible with their natural reflexes."

In fact, the opportunity to combine his sport and his profession happened by chance for the native of Adelaide. The same week that he lost his job at a local firm, Jones received a call about the Boneo Park project. Located on the Mornington Peninsula, Boneo Park includes a training complex, a competition venue, and a restaurant and administration building overlooking grass and sand arenas. But the setting is complicated: wetlands harbouring frogs, lizards and rare and threatened flowering plants, as well as important as habitat for migratory birds. In addition, the oldest indigenous remains in the area were discovered below one of the proposed stables.

"A crucial part of our role has been to ensure that an equestrian design project is not only compatible with, but enhances, a sensitive environment," says Jones. “In the end, the constraints imposed by the site contributed to the success of the project, including the possibility for a beautiful and improved backdrop for the wetlands.” And when the architect evaluates his work, he is not only interested in whether he has responded to the client's wishes, but also in the sustainability and flexibility of his creation: "A project, from the master plan to the built buildings, should be able to adapt to changing needs." Article continues below. 

A new project and ongoing ambitions

A new project and ongoing ambitions - GP 50: Luke Jones, architect and eventer

Site plan for Sustainable Thoroughbred Complex and Museum
Credit : C4 Architects

The rider’s sports career has also evolved over the years. Having completed six competitions at the 4* level and competed in six Longines FEI World Cup qualifying competitions in show jumping, Jones has taken part in the CCI**** Burghley Horse Trials in England in 2006 and in Adelaide, where he finished 5th in 2009. His partner at the time was Soul. "I got him when he was 10 years old and had a dubious past," Jones says. “He was a remarkable horse; he struggled with dressage, but showed his jumping ability and received an award at Burghley for the biggest rise in the standings. "

Today, Jones (currently ranked 602nd in the world) maintains international ambitions. And although his work has prevented him from envisioning a spot on the national team, it could nevertheless still serve as a springboard: "I want to get back to the 4* level and I train every day with the intention of competing overseas. If the opportunity to do a 4* in the northern hemisphere came up, I would take it. Currently, I have an architectural client who has the same ambition and I ride one of his young horses. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of a new story.” 

In fact, that same client also hired Jones for a new site which the designer describes as "a dream come true." This thoroughbred complex and neighbouring museum dedicated to horses in Australia brings together many of his passions, including art, architecture, equestrian sports, sustainable development and museums. Clearly, a project tailor-made for the well-rounded architect.

Further reading...