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 inclusive access to outdoor environments, 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.

As a Landscape Architect, she supports good access to high quality open space that offers opportunities for a rich experience for all.

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 history and theory of Landscape Architecture at all levels. She is joint Programme Director of the Landscape and Wellbeing - MSc programme at ECA and supervises a number of PhD students in areas relevant to her research.

She coordinates the Landscape Architecture PhD programme in ESALA and is joint Programme Director of the Landscape and Wellbeing - MSc programme at ECA.

Catharine is founder and Director of OPENspace, an internationally-recognised research centre based in both the Universities of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt. Established in 2001 with support from the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, the Centre has held four international conferences and attracted over £5m 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); cited by the World Health Organization, I'DGO research has had a significant impact on joined-up policy making and planning for healthy environments.

Catharine's current research projects include a study funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) on the effectiveness of Forestry Commission Scotland’s programme, ‘Woods In and Around Towns’ (WIAT), particularly on improving psychological wellbeing in deprived communities. She also led the recently completed £1.6m EPSRC-funded project, Mobility, Mood and Place (MMP), an interdisciplinary project working with psychologists, neuroscientists, health geographers and gerontologists, as well as engaging Masters-level students in developing co-design as a research tool. The project is the recipient of an ESRC Impact Acceleration Award.

Catharine was named the European Council of Landscape Architecture Schools (ECLAS) 'Outstanding Researcher of 2014'. 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 the Higher Education Academy. She currently advises on implementation of the National Walking Strategy for Scotland and NHS Health Scotland’s Place Standard.

Current PhD students

PhD Supervision Topics

  • Salutogenic outdoor environments
  • Inclusive access to outdoor environments
  • Environment-behaviour interactions
  • Health and outdoor environments
  • Landscape aesthetics, perception and experience
  • History and theory of urban park design and conservation
  • Landscape design for older people
  • Landscape design for children/teenagers
  • History of landscape design
  • Landscape design education