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A path in a park lined with trees

At OPENspace research centre, we’re committed to fostering inclusive access to a wide range of outdoor environments, from city parks and squares to remote rural landscapes. We focus on the benefits to be gained from getting outdoors and identify the barriers faced by different users, particularly those from disadvantaged communities.

Our work at OPENspace explores the potential of blue and green spaces to facilitate beneficial and enjoyable engagement with the outdoors. In doing so, we aim to find evidence of ways to enhance individuals’ health and wellbeing and foster a positive connection with the natural world. 

Since our inception in 2001, OPENspace has secured over £6.5 million in external funding, hosted four international conferences, and published a number of books. Additionally, we provide consultancy services to public agencies and professional bodies, advising on issues such as rural and urban planning, social inclusion through landscape design, promotion of recreation in natural settings, and advocacy for environmental justice.

A cornerstone of our efforts is the MSc in Landscape and Wellbeing programme, the first postgraduate taught programme of its kind to acknowledge and address the positive interplay between landscapes and human wellbeing and quality of life. This programme equips students with the knowledge and skills to inform landscape design practices.

Current projects at OPENspace exemplify our commitment to community engagement and real-world impact. Building on our expertise in researching links between landscape planning, design and management and human health, several members of OPENspace are involved in the GroundsWell project. A collaboration between researchers, local communities, implementers, and policymakers, the GroundsWell project is geared towards better understanding the role of Urban Green and Blue Spaces (UGBS) within cultural, social, economic, environmental, and health systems, with the overall aim of reducing non-communicable disease. The research is split across Belfast, Edinburgh, and the Liverpool City Region, taking advantage of the distinct urban characteristics of each.

The Woods In and Around Towns Project (WIAT2), addresses some of the urgent and most pressing questions facing forestry agencies across the UK, Europe, and the world, especially pertaining to sustainability, social access to forests, childhood development and human health.

OPENspace researchers are also at the forefront of efforts to enhance care for older adults and support flourishing in later life through the Advanced Care Research Centre (ACRC). By championing personalised, affordable and data-driven approaches to health and wellbeing in older age, we're working to uphold the dignity and quality-of-life of people living in their own homes and in supported care environments. 

At OPENspace research centre, our vision is clear: to create a world where everyone, at every stage in their lives, has the opportunity to experience the transformative ways that engagement with nature can enhance body, mind and spirit. Through collaborative research, innovative education, and community engagement, we're paving the way towards a more inclusive and sustainable future. 

Would you like to undertake research-led study at ECA?

We offer a range of research-led postgraduate programmes.

Associated programmes

Meet our staff