Review | Lecture Series on Landscape and Health by Professor Catharine Ward Thompson
time: 2018-05-30

From 21st to 25th,May, 2018, Professor Catharine Ward Thompson from University of Edinburgh visited the landscape architecture department,School of Architecture, SCUT. Five lectures about the links between landscape and health presented by Prof Catharine during her visiting the school, and she also shared the landscape program curriculum and education at University of Edinburgh with Prof LinGuangsi,Chairof Landscape Architecture Department, and other faculty members from School of Architecture, SCUT.  

“Historic Links between Landscape and Health”Prof Catharine in lecture 1 illustrated the links between landscape and health from ancient times inMesopotamia to more recent centuries in Europe and North America, and how those influences were conceived and expressed in landscape architecture. It considered the landscape as a basis for physical exercise, as the place to grow therapeutic and medicinal plants, as a place to stimulate and restore the mind, and as a place to relieve stress and the tensions of everyday urban life. It also covered the history of public park development from the 19th century onwards in response to the articulation of these landscape-health links.


In lecture 2, “Affordance Theory, its implications for practice, and examples of design for Wayfinding”,Catharine introduced the concept of affordance, and its implications for how we plan, design and evaluate our landscapes. The theory of affordance is explained and then some examples of its application are described. These include children’s environments in rural and urban areas and access to countryside and woodland areas for different communities. The lecture also covered the application of theories about wayfinding to offer practical advice for landscape managers who want to encourage new visitors to their sites.

Prof Catharine presented “Design for Children, drawing on Personal Construct Theory, Affordances and a multi-method approach” in lecture 3. She illustrated evidence for the importance of childhood experience in natural environments. It examined the way that different environments offer varying opportunities for children’s enjoyment and development. It considers what these might mean for the children when they become adults. Various methods are described for researching how children engage with their environment and finding out what they want and need for healthy play.


In lecture 4 and 5,Prof Catharine presented her research projects about the relationship between open space and health of older people. For“I’DGO” project – Inclusive design for Getting Outdoors - a multidisciplinary research project which explored what makes it easy or difficult for older people to access outdoor environments. It identified the key features of outdoor environments that are important in supporting older people to get out and about, and some of the problems they face. It also presented evidence for the importance of access outdoors, particularly to green and natural spaces, and why it matters for health and quality of life in older age. In another project “Mobility, Mood and Place”,Catharine explored what enhances enjoyment of outdoor environments in older age and why does it matter with a multidisciplinary team.It described their most recent research on older people’s outdoor enjoyment and the implications of good and bad design for different groups within the older population. It also explained their approach to co-design with older people and considers some of their cutting-edge research using mobile EEG headsets to measure brain activity responses to the experience of urban places in real time. It also illustrated their recent analyses of the influence of environments over the life-course, from childhood to old age (80 years +) and the implications this has for planning and design of urban landscapes.


With the increasingly social stress and environmental challenge, public health has become one of key issues for contemporary landscape practice and research in China. Professor Catharine Ward Thompson is one ofworld leading scholarsin the research area of links between landscape and health. The purpose of this lecture series is to help students to better understand the health benefit of landscape for different people,

research method and progress.


During the lecture, students and faculty memberswith different background discussed with Prof Catharine about the detail of research and practice for health benefit of landscape in China, and she shared her most of experience in England. At the end of lecture, Pro Lin Guangsi also made a conclusion of the importance of this lecture series in landscape research and gave students some suggestions for their future research and practice.


About ProfessorCatharine Ward Thompson:

Catharine Ward Thompsonis professor of landscape architecture and Director of OPENspace Research Center at University of Edinburgh, UK, where she has been teaching for more than 30 years. Her work focuses on inclusive access to outdoor environments and links between landscape and health. It includes work with children, young people and older people; it covers environment-behavior interactions, historic landscapes and contemporary needs, and salutogenic environments. She was a member of the Scottish Government’s Good Places Better Health Evaluation Group.


She directed some important research projects including 1) I’DGO (Inclusive Design for Getting Outdoors) research consortium, which focused on the benefits and barriers to getting outdoors for older people and their quality of life ; 2) Mobility, Mood and Place for older people with an emphasis on positive experiences and restorative outdoor environments; 3) GreenHealth project, showed relationships between objective (cortisol) measures of health and objective mapping of green space levels in the residential environment. A current NIHR-funded project, in collaboration with the Forestry Commission, is exploring whether a woodland intervention program improves psychological wellbeing in deprived communities.Recently, she alsohas contributed a great dealto the report on the links between urban green space and health of WHO regional office for Europe.