Catharine Ward Thompson is Professor of Landscape Architecture at the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA), and Director of the OPENspace research centre.
Her research focuses on the links between inclusive access to outdoor environments and quality of life, including environment-behaviour interactions, landscape design for older people, children and teenagers, and salutogenic environments.
Catharine also has expertise in the history and theory of urban park design and conservation, the history of landscape design, and landscape aesthetics and perception.
Catharine was educated at the Universities of Southampton and Edinburgh and has practised as a Landscape Architect in Vancouver, Canada, and in the UK. She was Head of the School of Landscape Architecture at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) from 1989-2000 and continues to teach at all levels. She is joint Programme Director of the Landscape and Wellbeing MSc programme at ECA and has supervised a number of PhD students in areas relevant to her research.
Catharine teaches on aspects of Landscape Architecture at all levels, from undergraduate to postgraduate taught and research programmes. She is joint Programme Director of the Landscape and Wellbeing MSc at ECA and supervises a number of PhD students in areas relevant to her research.
She has lectured widely throughout the UK and in Europe, North America, Australia, Malaysia and China. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Landscape Institute and of the Higher Education Academy.
Catharine is founder and Director of OPENspace, an internationally-recognised research centre focused on inclusive access outdoors. Established in the Universities of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt in 2001 with support from the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, the Centre has held four international conferences and attracted over £7m in external funding.
As Director of OPENspace, Catharine has led numerous major research grants and collaborations, including highly-innovative research on ‘GreenHealth’ for the Scottish Government (2008-12) and the award-winning consortium, Inclusive Design for Getting Outdoors (I’DGO), focused on older people's quality of life.
Recent research projects include studies funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) and ESRC on the effectiveness of Forestry Commission Scotland’s programme, ‘Woods In and Around Towns’ (WIAT), particularly on improving psychological wellbeing and child development outcomes in deprived communities. She led the £1.6m EPSRC-funded project, Mobility, Mood and Place (MMP), working with psychologists, neuroscientists, health geographers and gerontologists, as well as engaging Masters-level students in developing co-design with older people as a research tool. This work is continued under new projects on the Lifecourse of Place, funded by ESRC, and (as part of the Advanced Care Research Centre) by Legal and General Group plc.
Research on older people, access outdoors and quality of life has been cited by the World Health Organization and continues to have a significant impact on joined-up policy making and planning for healthy environments. A recent UKRI project, GroundsWell, continues Catharine's work as part of a multi- and inter-disciplinary consortium focused on the role of Urban Green and Blue Space in disease prevention.
Catharine was named the European Council of Landscape Architecture Schools (ECLAS) 'Outstanding Researcher of 2014' and was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in 2017. She has advised the City of Edinburgh Council on its Thriving Green Spaces vision for 2050, the Scottish Government on their Good Places, Better Health policy development and on implementation of the National Walking Strategy for Scotland, and NHS Health Scotland on their Place Standard and the role of the environment in future public health.