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Title: Defensible space as a mobile concept : the role of transfer mechanisms and evidence in housing research, policy and practice
Author: Warwick, Elanor Joan Petra
ISNI:       0000 0004 5368 4186
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2015
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Defensible space is a contested yet influential approach to designing-out-crime on social housing estates. This thesis uses defensible space as the vehicle to explore how movement changes concepts; to extend the learning on policy mobility mechanisms; to investigate the varied cross-disciplinary nature of evidence use; and to explore the interaction of policy, the housing sector and the state. Deepening the international policy mobilities narrative, the study traces the dispersal/embedding of the concept in Britain since the 1980s by revisiting the operational and theoretical account of defensible space proposed by Alice Coleman in the Design Improvement Controlled Experiment (DICE). Drawing on interviews with planning and architecture practitioners, housing managers and elite policymakers, the thesis explores the multiple ways the concept was interpreted and implemented as it circulated from national to local level and within three London housing estates, illustrating how the transfer mechanisms worked at both a policy and practical level. Despite being a concept whose principles continue to underpin design guidance (such as Secured by Design), defensible space failed to coalesce into a single formal policy, remaining a cluster of associated disputed elements. How these conceptual elements aided or hindered transfer and take up is noted by tracking routes to acceptance, the roles of formal transfer mechanisms, informal information sharing by transfer agents traversing networks, or practitioners╩╝ local contextualization of generic guidance. The research demonstrates the ongoing resilience and acceptance of defensible space, despite biased evaluation, the mismatch of DICE to the politics of the time and the uncertain nature of the concept. By questioning whether positivist scientific theoretical unity is achievable in practice, it argues for greater trust in practitioner experience, and proposes a looser middle-range approach to theory building for ambiguous concepts such as defensible space.
Supervisor: Butler, Timothy ; Lees, Loretta Conway Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available