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Elanor Warwick


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Research interests (short)

Defensible space as a mobile concept: the role of transfer mechanisms and evidence in housing research, policy and practice. 

Member of the Cities research group.

Research interests

Defensible space as a mobile concept: the role of transfer mechanisms and evidence in housing research, policy and practice. 

This thesis tracks the evolution of Defensible Space, a contested yet influential approach to designing out crime, from its early application on New York housing projects in the 1970s to British council estates in the 1980s. Subsequent to this international policy mobility narrative, the study explores the dispersal / embedding process in Britain by revisiting the operational and theoretical account of defensible space proposed by Alice Coleman in the Design Improvement Controlled Experiment (DICE). Despite being a concept whose principles continue to underpin design guidance (such as Secure by Design) defensible space repeatedly failed to coalesce into a single formal policy, remaining a cluster of associated disputed approaches.  The unique features of these elements are assessed, noting which aid or hinder transfer and take up at a cross-policy-domain or cross-discipline level. Policy mutation is compared to local contextualization, as is the role of formal transfer mechanisms or informal information sharing by knowledge brokers and transfer agents traversing networks and disciplines. This presents a critique of the evidence based policy process and the varying research and evidence required to support policy or design guidance.

Drawing on interviews with planning and architecture practitioners, housing managers and elite policymakers, the thesis explores the multiple ways the concept was understood, interpreted, and implemented as it circulated from national to local level, across one London Borough, and between the public and private spaces on three London housing estates. By illustrating how the mechanisms worked at both a policy and practical level, it demonstrates that the ongoing resilience and acceptance of the approach occurred despite biased evaluation, the mismatch of DICE to the politics of the time, and the ambiguous nature of the concept of defensible space itself.



Warwick, E. (2003) Designer’s Handbook CD update - Homes for sale and intermediate forms of tenure. London: Peabody Trust

Warwick, E. (2001) Designer’s Handbook: a best practice reference guide to design standards for architects, construction professionals and contractors. London: Peabody Trust

Peer reviewed papers

Warwick E. (2012) “Designs on security: Tracing the translation of ‘defensible space’ from a theoretical concept to a designed reality”. Conference proceedings of The Production of Place UEL 17/18 December 2012


Warwick, E. and Lees, L. (2008) “Crime prevention and the visible public realm.” Building Research and Information 1466-4321, Volume 36, Issue 6, Routlidge


Marmot, A.F. and Eley, J. and Stafford, M. and Stansfeld, S.A. and Warwick, E. and Marmot, M.G. (2006) “Building health: an epidemiological study of "sick building syndrome" in the Whitehall II study.” Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 63 (4).

Book Chapters

Warwick E. (Forthcoming 2014) “Designs on security: Tracing the translation of ‘defensible space’ from a theoretical concept to a designed reality”. The Production of Place UEL, Alan Chandler (ed.) 

Warwick, E (2013) “CABE’s approach to research” in CABE and the processes of Design Evaluation in Architecture and Built Environment Aya Sakai and Kazuro Koide (eds.) Kajima Publishing

Warwick, E. (2009) “Defensible Space.” In Kitchin R, Thrift N (eds) International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, Volume 3, Oxford: Elsevier.

Phippen, P. and Warwick, E. (2003) “The Design Challenge” In The Housing Forum Homing in on Excellence: A commentary on the use of offsite fabrication methods for the UK house building industry. London: ODPM / DTI

Professional research reports and papers

Implementation of Lifetime Neighbourhood Principles in the London Context, Internal report for the GLA (2012)

Responsible for the analytical content of numerous reports for Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment including. See

for further examples :

Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) (2010) Response to density matters in the revised London Plan and supporting submission on housing space standards.  Presented at the Examination in Public London October 2010

Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), (2010) Mapping Space standards for the Home and other material including the bibliography for the CABE housing standards web resource

National Audit Office (NAO) (2007) “Most academy buildings score relatively well on functionality, build quality and impact“  In The Academies Programme National Audit Office Value for Money Report. London: NAO

Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) (2006) Assessing secondary school design quality: Examining the first wave of schools being built under the building schools for the future (BSF) programme. London: CABE

Warwick, E. and Gonzalez, S. (2004) The real budget for research: an analysis of current levels of public funding for the built environment London: CABE

Book reviews

Warwick, E. (2007) “Book Review: The Safe City: Safety and Urban Development in European Cities by Leo Van Den Berg”, Urban Studies October 2007 44: 2277-2279,

Biographical details


Elanor's experience and career has bridged three spheres: the vocational practice of architecture, academic research activities, and managing a major national research programme. She trained as an architect and urban designer and spent 10 years designing social housing, schools and health buildings in both the public and private sector.  While practicing as an architect she maintained a close association with academia by working as a Research Fellow at UCL with Professor Michael Marmot, investigating the impact of the workplace on the health of office workers, and studying on the MSc in City design and social science at the LSE.

In 2001 she moved into housing research, establishing the role of Research Manager at the Peabody Trust. This provided the opportunity to apply built environment research in practice, and she was responsible for devising a research programme evaluating the impact of Peabody's innovative schemes such as Murray Grove, or BedZED, ensuring that theoretical sustainability was translated into practical delivery of better, more affordable housing.

Between 2003 and 2011 CABE Elanor was Head of Research at CABE  (The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) managing a diverse and extensive programme of research covering all sectors of the built environment, and the design process, from the value of urban design to the impact of design on the users of building and spaces, with an emphasis on outcomes that were useful and relevant to a broad audience of professionals and public. She and her team produced targeted research providing the evidence to shape national policy, and embed good design practices within the design and construction industry.  Clear communication and targeted dissemination of research findings was a key remit of the CABE role, and Elanor made numerous presentations of CABE’s research to academic and professional conferences, both in the UK and Internationally. She participated as a technical advisor in over 20 industry and research council funded research project steering / advisory boards.  

Since 2007 she has been working part-time on a PhD at King’s College London, exploring the translation of the concept of defensible space, between research, policy and practice, and building on interest and practical experience in housing regeneration. In her professional practice Elanor engages with similar issues; leading to the creation of accessible and influential research. Recently she has been working the GLA on the practical implementation of Lifetime Neighbourhoods, and for the Technology Strategy Board on a competition to improve the efficiency and sustainability of design and construction process.  She has been a construction industry assessor for the Technology Strategy Board, was a Building For Life assessor, and acted as academic examiner for UCL and Cambridge University. Elanor is on the RIBA’s Research and Innovation committee, Building Futures, and is a member of the Edge, the Academy of Urbanism. 

In October 2013 Elanor was appointed Head of Strategic Research at Affinity Sutton Housing Association, to develop thier research agenda, particularly in the area of wellbeing and social value created by the social housing sector.


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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