Arcadia Nursery, the new nursery for the Edinburgh University Kings Buildings Campus,  gained a prestigious Highly Commended Award at the 2015 Landscape Institute Awards in London last month. The project has been four years in the making and reflects latest thinking in free play design. We have worked really hard to ensure the new play gardens are jam packed with opportunities for play, learning and fun. As more of us at erz are becoming parents, we are getting even more passionate about design for children.

Gardens at Arcadia include the fairy-lit babies garden with a cradle hung in a mature tree; the water gardens and growing spaces with child size potting shed; the woodland play area with its huge snaking tree house; the meadow gardens with a willow arbor and wildflowers. Planting is designed to be sensory and colourful and the 37 mature trees on the site have been retained to create cover and character. There are big plastic moveable outdoor boxes to play in – because boxes are the best toy ever – and there are water taps, mud kitchens and sand pits.

This project is all too rare: research shows that early play outdoors is beneficial to health, well being and personal development.
Yet nurseries often have minimal budgets for outdoor play. Old tyres, pallets and pipes, whilst fun, have become a replacement for the well designed spaces and good quality materials that we would use in ‘adult’ spaces.

… nature must be seen as an essential component of the experiential world of childhood, designed into every childhood habitat, providing daily immersion in nature, putting children in close touch with the biosphere. In the urban world we live in, implementation of this right cannot be left to chance. It is a design imperative.
Moore, R. and Cosco, N. (2000) ‘ earthboundpaper.html

To date Arcadia Nursery has won the following Awards:

2015; Highly Commended, Landscape Institute Awards 2015
2015; Winner, Education & Public Sector, The Wood Awards 2015
2015; Winner, Scottish Design Awards, Best Educational Building
2015; Winner, Wood For Good / Forestry Commission Scotland Award
2015 RIBA Award for Scotland
2015 RIAS Award
2015 RIAS Award – The Best Use of Timber
2015 Zero Waste Scotland’s resource efficiency award
2015 Wood for Good/Forestry Commission Scotland Award for the best use of timber

See further information on Arcadia Nursery at:

Or see the Landscape Institute case study of Arcadia Nursery at:

Article By: Felicity Steers