Client St. David's Center
Location Minnetonka, Minnesota
Scope Inclusive new preschool playground, which incorporates a nature-themed active play area bordered by a creative exploration and learning zone

St. David’s Center

Project Details

Westwood’s Role

  • Landscape Architecture
  • Civil Engineering


St. David’s Center opened an inclusive new preschool playground in 2015, which incorporates a nature-themed active play area bordered by a creative exploration and learning zone.  The overall play area blends naturally with an adjacent woodland and wetland area, referred to as the “school forest” which was once separated by a parking area, a thru-road, and a drop off area.

Working on the design as a consultant to Pope Architects, Westwood’s Landscape Architect, Dan Sjordal, worked with St. David’s staff and playground committee throughout the design process. The committee included teachers and therapy staff to ensure needs of its children were met, including those with special needs.  

Sjordal credits St. David’s team for the unique play area design. Sjordal says, “From the beginning, St. David’s goal for the design was to incorporate natural play concepts into play, learning, enjoyment, and inspiration for all of its children. The active play area offers something for everyone, and the surrounding wooded natural play area and learning zone inspires exploration and imaginary play.”

The wooded natural play area includes a tree house (house made of trees), ‘mud kitchen’ with a sand play area, dry creek bed for water play, and willow house and planting area where children can learn and participate in gardening. All of these elements were designed to extend St. David’s learning opportunities to the outdoors.

Westwood has been a long-time supporter of St. David’s Center and overall mission. Westwood teamed with Pope Architects as the civil engineer on the building renovation and campus redesign project. The project team focused on preserving and enhancing the school forest with the design of an underground retention basin and several rain gardens designed to filter parking lot stormwater runoff to protect the adjacent wetland. Westwood redesigned the school’s parking area to combine two lots into one, enhancing efficiency, functionality, and safety for students, staff, and visitors.