Working in collaboration with the architects, erz drew on the philosophy of natural play and also Scandinavian Free Play to develop a nursery school that operates as an indoor/outdoor experience for the children, with fluid movement between a series of spaces, each offering different types of activity. Outside, we designed a series of gardens or playscapes, with distinct scales and characters, that become increasingly ‘wild’ as you retreat from the building. Our intent was to create a children’s garden in which to play and not a ‘playground’. Like the new nursery building the garden is intended to be not only functional and educational but also beautiful and inspiring. We also sought to partner a contemporary design aesthetic with natural materials and a strong ecological remit.
erz were responsible for the design and development of all external works associated with the project. Malcolm Fraser Architects acted as contract administrator and erz worked closely with them to ensure the process for the design and delivery of the garden was well coordinated.
Specifically; a complex and formal series of gardens was delivered under the canopy of over thirty mature trees without endangering tree health. The planting was enhanced with a palette of native hedging and shrubs, and a new meadow seed mix designed for light woodland cover. Play structures were sourced from timber from the University’s own estate. This is a play garden and offers a rich variety of spaces and places, with integrated play elements occurring as part of the overall design.
Approximate Map Location
University of Edinburgh
Urban/suburban green space
Shortlisted for an LI Award 2015
To design and build a new nursery garden as part of the consolidation of the UoE’s existing two nurseries into single purpose built facility. The new nursery was to be a unique environment that would reflect the quality andstandards of the UoE. The nursery wanted to promote the ideas of free play and have elements of forest schools andnatural play within the garden.
erz (Artas-ua.info Architect); Malcolm Fraser Architects (Architect); AED (Structural Engineer); HarleyHaddow (M+E Engineer); Blebo Consultants (Arboricultural Clerk of Works); Applied Ecology (Ecologist); Alan Kain(Artist)
The investment in the outdoor space associated with pre schools is critical to the health and well being of our children. This project is an exemplar that shows what can be delivered if parents, staff and stakeholders involved in nursery education are forward thinking and ambitious. There are a number of innovations on this project from the design and layout of the space to the resolution of concerns from the local planning department and technical solutions to the problems associated with the trees. We believe that this is a unique project on many levels that sets a new standard for outdoor pre school (and school) play environments. A huge amount of hard work was undertaken by the nursery staff, and commitment by the nursery management team to first develop the vision and then to support us in the designs to ensure the ambitious plans were delivered.