Lois Brink headshot

Lois Brink MLA

  • Landscape Architecture Department (CAP)


As a professor of landscape architecture, Lois Brink’s career includes administrative and management positions, as well as innovations in teaching and research. Her academic career is grounded in comprehensive and financially rigorous platforms to support research. As a principal investigator with over $6 million in funded research, Brink has worked with the National Institutes of Health, Center for Disease Control, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and numerous local and state foundations committed to interdisciplinary collaboration. She continues to co-author peer reviewed papers with nationally recognized leaders in the health industry and their work is continuously cited by peers.

The innovative aspects of Brink’s research stems from the health-related benefits of Learning Landscapes (www.Learninglandscapes.org), a schoolyard redevelopment initiative she founded in 1998. Under her watch as principal designer and researcher (and volunteer construction foreman and laborer), Learning Landscapes (LL) became an innovative $50 million design and construction program that completed all 96 Denver elementary public schools. LL’s mission was threefold: 1) design and construct play environments for healthy living that address the whole child–social, emotional, academic, and nutritional well-being; 2) empower children and communities through, community organizing, healthy eating and active living, and 3) evaluate and research these activities in a comprehensive manner. 

Brink came from private practice to the University of Colorado in 1988 with a passion for using landscape architecture to effect real change in communities: “I believe in what we do and I show that by doing it”. Her academic & professional strengths come from lessons learned while building a movement in Denver relying on basic “collective impact” principles: a common agenda, shared measurement, and backbone support. Partnering closely with the Denver Public School District, she was intimately involved in budget planning and development for the bond offerings put before Denver voters in 2003 ($300 million) and 2008 ($400 million).

Brink’s knowledge and experience of children’s development and play—coupled with her 45 years as a landscape architect—is critical to other similar initiatives. During her stewardship of Learning Landscapes, the organization made substantial progress in Colorado and across the country. Professor Brink is currently examining the sustainability of schoolyard redevelopment through three other efforts: 1) International Green Schoolyards Alliance and its global lessons effort, 2) An evaluation of Denver Public Schools Learning Landscapes program, and 3) Working with North Philadelphia Schools and the School District of Philadelphia to redevelop schoolyards as part of the City’s green infrastructure program. 

Most recently she is supporting The Big SandBox (TBS), a young non-profit organization that supports small-scale neighborhood efforts and grows them into large system-wide community change. They help build sustainable, healthy communities through educational, cultural, and historically grounded projects and initiatives that improve the physical and emotional well-being of children, young adults and citizens of all ages. Current work is focused on a strategic launch of NOLA’s Big Green Vision Plan in partnership with the New Orleans Office of Youth and Families. The Nature Everywhere Campaign is a two-year effort to reduce nature inequity throughout the city.

As the first female full professor at the College of Architecture and Planning, Professor Brink has a strong commitment to diversity. Her research and teaching efforts focus on marginalized communities of Denver, Philadelphia and New Orleans. 

"Today, our landscapes and their history and culture are very present and politically charged. We have an opportunity to rethink how we engage affected communities in a manner empathetic to their values."

Research and Creative Work

McGlone Elementary Playground before and after shots. The before image features a gravel playground with outdated swing sets, and the after image features a brightly covered pavilion, new play equipment, and improved surpaces.McGlone Elementary School Playground Before and After

15 Weeks to Transform Colorado's Unique Ecosystem into a Learning Landscape

2022 ASLA Community Service Honor Award

New Orleans Fall 2023 Immersive Studio

Proposed park design for Goins Playspot in the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans, LA, based on community feedback. Completed for Immersive Studio and Advance Media & Technology, Fall 2023.

Denver Study - Rich Soil: The Economic Benefits of Green Schoolyards

Lois Brink served as the lead researcher for the Denver study, analyzing data from a districtwide green schoolyard conversion in a large urban school district to estimate many different types of effects.

Areas of Expertise

My research is threefold: 1) design and construct play environments for healthy living that address the whole child–social, emotional, academic, and nutritional well-being; 2) empower children and communities through, community organizing, healthy eating, and active living, and 3) evaluate and research these activities in a comprehensive manner.

Education, Licensure & Certifications

Master of Landscape Architecture, University of Pennsylvania (1978)Bachelor of Arts, Environmental Design, University of Pennsylvania (1976)



2022. ASLA National Student Community Service Award, Faculty Advisor University of Colo.
2021, CU Diversity & Inclusive Excellence Grant, University of Colorado Denver
2019, College of Architecture and Planning, “Telling the story, A Community-Centered Curation Project - CAP Seed Grant and Leadership Award
2017, CU Online Outstanding Teacher Award, University of Colorado Denver.
2015, College of Architecture and Planning Excellence in Teaching
2011, Physical Fitness Community Award, President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Wash. DC
2010, Researcher of the Year Award, College of Architecture and Planning.
2009, Entrepreneurial American Cities Award, Partners for Livable Communities. Washington, DC.
2009, Play Matters – one of 14 programs selected nationally - Kaboom. Washington, DC.
2006, Colorado ASLA Chapter Design award for six Learning Landscapes. Denver, CO.

$150,000 of funding from the Children & Nature Network for a two-year study to use a statistical regression analysis to determine actual outcomes using quantitative data from DPS and the Colorado Department of Education to determine benefits of the Learning Landscapes (LL) program, a large scale green schoolyard conversion project.


International School Grounds Alliance. 2011 - present
Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture. 1988 - present
Member, SAC George W. Nebinger School, Philadelphia, PA 2021- present
Member, Friends of Dr. Tanner G. Duckrey School 2019 - present
Chief Strategist for The Big Sandbox, Inc. 2014 – present

College of Architecture and Planning

CU Denver

CU Denver Building

1250 14th Street


Denver, CO 80202


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