Owen Byrom, an MLA graduate from 2 years ago, has won this year’s Landscape Institute Award for the best student dissertation with his dissertation, ‘Headplace: How can public space be utilised to help alleviate mental health disorders in urban environments?’ His research work included setting up an online survey to gauge the feelings generated by public spaces in Manchester city centre among people with a range of mental health conditions. This subsequently led to his setting up the charity Headplace, http://www.headplace.org which he runs at the same time as working full time in landscape practice. This is an extremely competitive prize and he has done exceptionally well to win.
Owen has written a brief reflection on his dissertation and prize for the blog:
I would say I have never been particularly good at writing, I don't believe I have any natural talent or skill; just a passion for what I write about. Being shortlisted for the Landscape Institute award, for the student dissertation, was a great shock to me but very much appreciated, I never expected to win. I have to say that, on rejoining the university to study the master's degree, I was dreading the idea of writing a dissertation. However, with the help of the tutors, I soon came to see it as an opportunity to research and add my voice to a subject I was passionate about. There was only one topic I wanted and felt I needed to write about, Mental health. Mental health is a very personal and important subject to many, including myself. A short period of time before writing Headplace - Public Space Utilisation, I had completed a course of CBT for my own difficulties with Mental Health disorders. The therapy, unfortunately, hadn't been particularly groundbreaking for my own mental health but I believe it had helped me to see potential avenues for research. The actual task of writing the text was particularly challenging at times, as it made me confront a number of my own issues; however, I am glad I did not shy away from the subject. On completing the text, I realised the process and my previous history with mental health had enabled me to re-examine the subject, generate and share proposals from a new perspective on the matter.
Now, after the decision to form Headplace as a non-profit organisation, I now carry out consultancy, research, and design work; whilst ardently continuing to promote further conversation regarding our mental health and the built environment.