Edinburgh, United Kingdom
City population: 478344
Duration: 2012 – 2014
Implementation status: Completed
Scale: Sub-microscale: Street scale (including buildings)
Project area: unknown
Type of area: Unknown
Last updated: October 2021

The Arcadia nursery is a new building located at the King’s Buildings Campus, Edinburgh and owned by the University of Edinburgh. The current intervention is about promoting ideas of free play and having elements of forest schools and natural play within the garden. As outdoor spaces associated with pre-schools is critical to the health and well being of children, this project is one of the very important initiatives in the city. It mixes indoor and outdoor play areas, and children can move between the eco-friendly building and a specially landscaped garden. The playrooms lead to a garden which enables 'nature' to be in close reach for the children. (ref 1, 4)

Arcadia Nursery
Photo by ERZ (erzstudio)


Nature-based solution

  • Grey infrastructure featuring greens
  • Green playgrounds and school grounds
  • Parks and urban forests
  • Other
  • Community gardens and allotments
  • Other

Key challenges

  • Green space, habitats and biodiversity (SDG 15)
  • Green space creation and/or management
  • Social justice, cohesion and equity (SDG 10)
  • Environmental education
  • Health and well-being (SDG 3)
  • Enabling physical activity
  • Improving physical health
  • Creation of opportunities for relaxation and recreation
  • Sustainable consumption and production (SDG 12)
  • Sustainable consumption


Creation of new green areas, Knowledge creation and awareness raising

Project objectives

1. The nursery wants to promote the ideas of free play and have elements of forest schools and natural play within the garden. 2. The building is designed around a ‘free-play’ concept that encourages age groups to mix and which helps to develop children’s confidence, independence and creativity (ref 2)

Implementation activities

The outdoor space is formed into three distinct zones and is considered as another ‘playroom’ for the nursery, used every day by all age groups to encourage physical activity and engagement with nature. An ‘enclosed’ garden with a covered terrace which is directly accessible from the nursery building provides a space for children to play. Several ‘open play’ features in the garden include grass steps, a bubble bridge, water pump, raised vegetable planters and a potting shed. (ref 1, 3) play trees, log ladders and sand pit. There is a meadow zone with long grass and meadow flowers to encourage birds and insects (Ref 2)

Main beneficiaries

  • Public sector institution (e.g. school or hospital)
  • Researchers/University
  • Citizens or community groups
  • Young people and children


Management set-up

  • Led by non-government actors

Type of initiating organisation

  • Public sector institution
  • Researchers/university

Participatory approaches/ community involvement

  • Consultation (e.g. workshop, surveys)

Details on the roles of the organisations involved in the project

The main Client was the University of Edinburgh while other roles were: Mansell plc (Contractor), ERZ (Landscape Architect); Malcolm Fraser Architects (Architect); AED (Structural Engineer); HarleyHaddow (Building Services); Blebo Consultants (Arboricultural Clerk of Works); Applied Ecology (Ecologist) (ref 2)

Project implemented in response to ...

... an EU policy or strategy? Unknown
... a national policy or strategy? Unknown
... a local policy or strategy? Unknown


Total cost

€100,000 - €500,000

Source(s) of funding

  • Private Foundation/Trust

Type of funding

  • Direct funding or subsidy
  • Other

Non-financial contribution


Impacts and Monitoring

Environmental impacts

  • Green space and habitat
  • Increased green space area
  • Increase in protected green space areas

Economic impacts

  • Other

Socio-cultural impacts

  • Safety
  • Increased perception of safety
  • Social justice and cohesion
  • Improved access to urban green space
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Gain in activities for recreation and exercise
  • Cultural heritage and sense of place
  • Improvement in people’s connection to nature
  • Education
  • Increased support for education and scientific research

Type of reported impacts

Achieved impacts

Presence of formal monitoring system


Presence of indicators used in reporting

No evidence in public records

Presence of monitoring/ evaluation reports

No evidence in public records

Availability of a web-based monitoring tool

No evidence in public records