“Landscape architects are a crucial partner in creating new types of landscapes to support active, outdoor lifestyles in childhood.” – Robin Moore (“The New Nature Movement,” Children & Nature Network)
Playgrounds have changed a lot in the last 50 years. They are no longer stark metal islands in seas of barren sand. Now, playgrounds are designed purposefully, to fulfill the needs of a growing urban and diverse populations. New playgrounds such as the San Jose Rotary Playground offer children with different ability levels opportunities to play side-by-side. Other playgrounds, such as the award-winning Teardrop Playground in New York City’s Battery Park provide intergenerational ways for families to enjoy nature in an ever-growing city environment.
When it comes to designing new ways for children to interact with nature, there is no designer with more social klout than Professor Robin Moore. Moore holds design and architecture degrees from London University and MIT, and has held education positions at Stanford and UC – Berkeley. He currently works as a Professor of Landscape Architecture at North Caroline State University. Yet, his influence can be felt far outside of the classroom.
A History of Exceptional Play
“We’re slowly starting to see more spaces that are enriching for children in numerous ways.” – Robin Moore (Kara Corridan, “The Smarter Playground,” Parents Magazine)
Since the mid-1960’s, Robin Moore has been making his distinctive mark on playgrounds across the US – with a focus on making them more ecologically engaging and friendly. During his Master’s Degree at MIT, he helped design the Lenox-Camden Playground, which spurred his passion for combining artistic design and landscaping to create gorgeous play spaces.
By 1979, Moore’s rise through the educational realm had also led to a number of publications and several positions with private landscaping firms. He published “Plants for Play,” and “The Complete Playground Book“, which quickly became vital educational tools in play landscaping education. He also became a partner with Moore, Iacofano, Goltsman (MIG, Inc.) in Berkeley. It was here that he took on the role of Director of Research for Play and Learning in Adaptable Environments (PLAE, Inc.), doing groundbreaking work to provide play spaces that could be fully explored by children with special needs.
His work has earned him numerous awards worldwide, and he continues to be a force for change in the playground design industry. Moore is the Past President for the International Association for a Child’s Right to Play (IPA), a member of the UNESCO-funded Growing Up in Cities action research project, and the lead researcher for the US Access Board update of the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards for Children’s Environments.
The Father of Natural Playgrounds
“We need to provide our children with natural settings in which to play, learn, and thrive. We need to help them form emotional bonds with the abounding beauty of flowers and trees, rivers and streams, critters and clouds. We need them to be fascinated by these things, to grow into close and careful observers of the world around them, to feel not only appreciative but protective, and to be prepared to live their lives accordingly.” – Robin Moore (“Nature Play and Learning Places,” National Learning Initiative)
Although children have always been attracted to natural play, it wasn’t until the mid-60’s that architects like Robin Moore started to research the developmental impact of nature on cognition. Moore’s philosophy “to create new types of places where children can enjoy nature play,” was taken up by both students and colleagues, evolving into a brand new era of nature-based playgrounds. It inspired him and colleague Dr. Nilda Cosco to found the Natural Learning Intitiative (NLI) in order to “Create environments for healthy human development and a healthy biosphere for generations to come.”
Through the NLI, Moore has developed beautiful, award-winning play areas that build children’s relationships with the natural world. These include the Boston’s Children Museum Plaza, for which he won the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Honor Award in 2008, and Teardrop Park, for which he won the ASLA Honor Award in 2009.
Both of these parks embody the beauty and simplicity of Moore’s philosophy – to connect individuals to families through natural play.