The Man with a Golden Heart

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About Nathan Jones

Nathan was a Design fellow with Architecture for Humanity. Design Fellows commit at least a year of service to provide professional design and construction services to communities in need. He was supporting the Football for Hope program in partnership with streetfootballworld and FIFA to build the Besongabang Football for Hope Centre, in Besongabang, Cameroon. The project was in mid-construction when Nathan died of complications arising from malaria.

Prior to starting his fellowship with Architecture for Humanity, he worked in a foundry at the age of thirteen and studied in UEL London and at the Center for Alternative Technology in Wales. He worked in different architectural firms in the UK, in an engineering and sheet metal company in the US, and timber framing yard in Wales. He had great experience in earth construction gained from his work with an earth building construction company in Gambia. He will be missed.

Join Architecture for Humanity in remembering the inspiring life and work of Nathan Jones. Email us images or other remembrances. You may also contribute to a memorial fund established in Nathan's name.


Below are just a few of the memories friends and colleagues have shared. Join Architecture for Humanity in remembering the inspiring life and work of Nathan Jones. Email us images or other remembrances.

“He was a kind and generous architect and friend to many.” - Cameron Sinclair, Co-Founder and Chief Eternal Optimist, Architecture for Humanity

“It was our honor to have Nathan on our team. He was a talented architect and a loving , considerate human being. As I think back on my time working with Nathan, what comes to mind first is that he was a good listener. He was an earnest listener. Almost painfully so. He demanded you to be present, to not use ‘being busy’ as an excuse, he made you stop and think about what you were saying. He really wanted to get to the root of what you were saying, and then push further to make a more meaningful insight. He was intelligent and independent, yet also an innocent. He made you want to take care of him – protect him from the cynicism and toughness of the world. He had no time for superficialities and inspired those around him to ask more of themselves.

Nathan came to San Francisco for his orientation to AFH early in the design process of his project. We were discussing the design of his project, and the span of his roof. Somehow we started talking about the Italian architect, Nervi, and his concrete vaults – their elegance. He immediately did his research, and found that there was a Nervi building in San Francisco. We ran over there, giddy, like two kids skipping out of school to go the circus. We had such a nice afternoon studying the structure of St. Mary’s Cathedral. He reminded me of when I first started studying architecture – the joy of being in awe of buildings. When you are in an inspirational space, it just takes you over, fills you with joy and awe. That feeling is so uplifting and I appreciated Nathan reminding me of it’s importance.

Nathan was completely dedicated to the study of beautiful and true architectural expression. And he had a true love of people and a need to live without complication. He longed to live elementally, which I believe was his draw to Cameroon. When he was packing up to move to Mamfe, he announced that he was going to build his own hut as the first phase of the project. He wanted to build from bamboo, to build with his hands, to be completely attuned to his surroundings. Unfortunately, there was not enough time for that to happen, but we could all completely imagine Nathan sitting cross-legged on the floor of a self-made hut, working on his computer by candlelight.

Nathan, we were incredibly lucky to have you on our team. Thank you for your dedication, your joy and your kindness. I will miss you very much.”- Gretchen Mokry, Public Spaces and Infrastructure Studio Director, Architecture for Humanity

"It is with great sadness and deepest regret that we write to offer our sincere condolences for Nathan’s passing.

Nathan will always be remembered as someone who went above and beyond, who worked tirelessly to make sure that the Besongabang Football for Hope Centre would be, in the words of Mr. Thomas Orock, the head of UAC, “the best Football for Hope Centre in the world.” Everyone was incredibly impressed by the Centre’s design, and it was in many ways the yardstick of what the Football for Hope project could be.

Nathan will also be remembered as a dear friend, who immediately drew you in with his easy laugh, his lack of pretense, and his compassion. When someone went to visit the project, Nathan would take the time to show us around, to eat the local delicacies, and seemed so at ease in what to the rest of us was a very challenging environment. The local community embraced Nathan as one of their own, and clearly had deep respect, admiration, and appreciation for him.

The passing of someone so remarkable, who touched so many of our lives, is an occasion of great sorrow for all of us here at streetfootballworld. Nathan’s legacy will live on in the form of the thousands of young people who will benefit greatly from his work in Cameroon, and he will always be missed. Our thoughts are with you in this difficult time."- Vladimir and the streetfootballworld team

“We are deeply touched with Nathan’s death. Its a really a big blow to us. We really pray for his soul to rest in perfect peace as he has died at the service of humanity. We will ever live to remember him. We shall be waiting then...”- Orock Thomas Eyong, Director, Action for Children

“Nathan is in peace now and we should focus and what he took passion in - reaching out and working with the underprivileged. I really envied him lots! - very humble and modest and hardworking.”- George Kinuthia, AFH Design Fellow

“Nathan was an inspiring student and a great architect.”- George Edwards

“One of the most sincere and full of life people I have known.. deeply determined and doing what he felt passionate about to the last. Bless him. Gratitude and sadness at the news. With best wishes to all of you who have worked, laughed and shared life with dear Nathan.”- Mima Kearns

“Nathan is a local hero. He lived just like the locals, eating and drinking anything, going anywhere, etc.”- David Agbortabi, Contractor

“I write today to express my deepest sympathy for your loss. As the person who both trains Architecture for Humanity Design Fellows and is the lead on our Emergency Management Team, I have the distinction of being able to meet virtually every Design Fellow. You should know that I was the lead on the Emergency Team in working to arrange Nathan’s medical evacuation. I want you to know that we did everything we could to save Nathan’s life, and his loss is very personal for me.

Nathan was a vibrant young man who left us all far too soon. I remember him walking into our headquarters in San Francisco for the first time back in November 2011. He was quite the character, and he brought happiness and love with him wherever he went. His beaming ear to ear smile was enough to melt the coldest of hearts. He was loved and appreciated by his comrades and by the community in Cameroon in which he worked.

In the year and a half that we knew Nathan, we came to understand him as a man with a golden heart, and the quiet courage to go with it. Nathan lived and died doing the work he loved: helping others. For the rest of my life, his example will remain a shining beacon of courage and compassion in a world that can often seem cruel and heartless. Nathan was a hero in every sense of the word.

We will miss him. I will miss him. And he will be remembered. With love and admiration”- Jason Olson, Office Manager, Architecture for Humanity

“We must find a way to honor Nathan all together.”- Themba Mekwa, AFH Design Fellow

“I studied with him on the Part 2 course at CAT where he was much loved by all. I have passed on the news to our course tutor to ensure it is circulated to others who knew him there. I’m sure many will wish to attend the UK service in his memory and I certainly hope to be able to. Nathan’s unique enthusiasm, inquisitive nature and commitment were a joy to know and share. During our time at CAT he was an inspiration who always followed his gut and his dreams - a real pleasure to know and spend time with. His passing truly is a loss to the world and I join with you in grieving.”- Sharon Edgar

“Nathan and his family and friends are in everyone’s thoughts now...and I know this shocking and terribly sad news are very rough to deal with. More so, for all of you, who probably knew him in person as well. Though I’m far, my thoughts are with you.

When we lose someone who was near, who was working on the same project, the same’s extremely challenging to find the strength to move on and make sense of it all. I hope each one of you can take the necessary time to somehow come to terms with this huge loss.

I found some photos on internet of Nathan...and he gave me the impression of being a very positive and energetic and kind young man. Though I didn’t have the opportunity to know him in person, I’ll remember him like that. Let us all work even harder and with more dedication than we’ve done until today, on this project, in memory of him. I think we owe it to Nathan... and all the kids who will benefit from these centres, for which Nathan dedicated his last days to.”- Cornelia Genoni, CSR Programme Manager of FIFA

“Everyone loved Nathan. I had him over when we celebrated Thanksgiving here. Everyone has been talking about what a loss it is. My Cameroonian boyfriend says the last time he saw Nathan, a Cameroonian was greeting him in local dialect word reserved for very close friends.”- Renee Paris, Peace Corps volunteer

“I’m shocked and saddened by the news of Nathan’s passing. I was one of Nathan’s tutors at CAT and had the opportunity of seeing him grow and flourish during his 18months here. I hadn’t heard so thanks for telling me. I will circulate an email to all concerned at CAT and on the student intranet and try and get a dedicated response of messages for his family to read and see. If you send me details about the Architecture for Humanity response, I’ll try and co-ordinate things from CAT so you can pass our wishes and shared memories on to his family.

I was thinking that we could dedicate our newly built sanctuary to him...I think he would like that - he loved building and it’s a dedicated place we can go to ponder all our wonderful shared memories of him. I’d also like details of his/your project in Cameroon, perhaps we could set up a donation fund to help with the build?”- Trish Andrews

“He was always so inquisitive and full of life.”- Laura Mark

“He was the most dedicated of the lot of us - with Nathan it was really about the project 100%....And that real life OAN - that was brilliant! and he was so incredibly sharing with everything.”- Elisa Engel, AFH Design Fellow

“Nathan, you are a special soul and we have you in our hearts as one very promising person and young architect. You will always be remembered and be an example to the youth by your character.”- Paulo Fernandes and Alina Jeronimo, AFH Design Fellows

"I work in the office in San Francisco, as a program coordinator and has been working with Nathan from afar since he joined us. I remember every time he would call the office.. Just hearing his voice, would made me slow down, take a step back from work and come back to the real pace of life...he was always talking slowly and with time and with, you could hear it, a smile on his face, it would be an amazing break from the busy and fast pace of the San Francisco office. For 5 minutes I would stop everything, and be with Nathan, in Cameroon, in another reality, another pace of life... Always laughing and happy, even through problems and tensions, he would bring me, and everybody else around, a breath of fresh air every time, and I believe everywhere he go.

Nathan really was one of this rare human beings who give sense to this whole world.. We don't come across this kind of people so often. And he left way too early. It breaks my heart to know he is not around us anymore, but I look up at the sky, the mountains, and I can see his smile. I hope you can see it too, and will always remember him that way. I hope you know all he meant to us, and especially to the community he gave so much.. We will work even harder now to honor his work and complete the beautiful project he started. You can be really proud of him.. he will be truly missed."- Delphine Luboz, Project Coordinator, Architecture for Humanity

"We have all been deeply shaken by Nathan’s death, but we were all touched by him in life. Nathan brought a great sense of community and unity to the Design Fellows working on the Football for Hope Projects around Africa. We all work quite remotely, away from family and friends, and it makes a real difference to know and share the experiences of the other architects working in the field, and Nathan made that happen.

Nathan put in so much effort to bring us together, to share our experiences and the fun things that happen in each of our lives, wherever we were working. I never met Nathan personally but we wrote to each other often, sharing experiences and methods for our community engagements. Nathan was a charming and engaging man, and I am sorry that I never got to meet him in person. Everyone that did meet him spoke of his creativity, engaging mind and great personal outlook. The world has lost a great architect and a great human being.

My thoughts are with you and you family in this difficult time and I hope you can find some solace in that Nathan was working hard to improve the lives of people who needed him. From all accounts he became a valued member of their community, as he was of ours. He will be missed, but never forgotten."- Matthew Hughes, AFH Design Fellow

"I still remember the time when Nathan came to San Francisco for his training before he went to Cameroon. He always smiled and was so positive. I vividly remember how enthusiastic he was to talk about his project, and how excited he was to work for the community. He asked all of us to critique his design, and he took all input very positively. I hope a successor of his project will complete his project as he envisioned. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. He'll be missed tremendously."- Hiromi Tabei, Program Coordinator, Architecture for Humanity

"Passion. Dedication. Hope. Belief. Action. Big respect to the lost soul."- Yutaka Takiura, Board of Director member, Architecture for Humanity

"カメルーンで一人、というのは全く想像がつきません。。本当に残念に思います。お会いしたことは有りませんが、ご冥福を祈りたいと思います。"- Shogo Marukawa, Regional Program Manager, Architecture for Humanity

"遠い地でネイサンを亡くしたご家族、お友達のことを思うと心苦しく思います。若く、たった一人でカメルーンで頑張っていて、プロジェクトも進行中であったのに残念です。私も石巻でチームという存在に恵まれ、支えられていることに感謝したいです。ご冥福お祈り申し上げます。"- Nobuko Fujioka, Intern, Architecture for Humanity

" OANのページを拝見させて頂きました。尊敬の気持ちとご冥福をお祈りすることしかできませんが、改めて気を引き締めて頑張らねばと感じました。ネイサン君のこれまでの頑張りがカメルーンの地をよりステキにする一歩となっていることかと思います。これからもそんな取り組みを起点により良い何かが生まれていきますように…。"- Miku Kano, Business Coordinator, Architecture for Humanity

"I've had the good fortune of working with so many wonderful people who are endlessly dedicated to making the world a more just, peaceful and beautiful place. Nathan fit all of this in his one backpack, and carried it ten steps further. His dedication to this was, and will continue to be, without end. He has inspired myself and those around him to expand our minds and open our hearts to a world of possibility. A world where kindness, respect and compassion is the norm. A world where love goes without saying. He brought so much love to his work despite its many challenges. He was unstoppable. If there was no timber on site, he would make the arduous trip himself through the jungle to visit the lumber yard. He would dig ditches, pick up a hammer, climb scaffolding, offer a beer at the end of the day as incentive -- anything to help. As he did, he did so with an amazing grace and light. He was altruistic. He never saw himself above or apart from anyone else. It is because of this that he was so welcomed and so well respected. He is someone we can all continue to look up to, even though I'm sure he'd be blushing if he knew.

I'm deeply saddened by and so sorry for this loss. However, I can't help but smile every time I think about him, about one of the last times we spoke -- making jokes, laughing about something silly that just happened. I hope you're so proud of everything he did and was. I also hope you're proud of yourselves. I know he was influenced enormously by you, his family. I know how much he loved you and what an impact you all had on his life. I thank you for that. For bringing such a wonderful person in to this world. We're all better for it."- alix ogilvie, Program Manager, Architecture for Humanity

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