The Bartlett School of Architecture


Constance Desenfant

Public space in Copenhagen: Constance Desenfant


The Sensory Logic of Space: exploring the perceptions of fear and safety for women in public spaces in regards to morphological characteristics of the built environment.

First and second supervisors 


This research is concerned with the experience and perception of women in public spaces in relation to design decisions. More particularly, it focuses on public spaces located within contemporary residential developments in non-central urban locations. It aims to make a methodological contribution by bringing together spatial and sensorial analytic tools and methods through a hybrid approach including both qualitative and quantitative experiments.

Historically, public spaces have been a male-dominated characterised by social and political activity, while women’s domestic activities confine them within the home. Even today, the cities we live in are designed by men, for men, and are often largely unsuited to groups such as children, the elderly, disabled, women or migrants, for which access is sometimes restricted for physical or psychological reasons.

Understanding the intention behind the design of public spaces and planning of urban areas, on the one hand, and the un-programmed, self-generated perceptions and place-making practices occurring in these spaces (atmosphere perceived by the user), on the other, can help find links that become key to improve both the urban design process, the inclusivity of public space, and user experience.

The objective is to understand how design decisions might affect the experience of the user, where perceptions of fear and safety come from and whether they differ depending on gender. 

The thesis aims to explore the effects of design decisions at a local scale, looking at the effects the morphological characteristics of the built environment might have on patterns of use and perceptions; and at an urban scale, looking at the characteristics of the urban network within which the space considered is located. 


Constance Desenfant studied architecture at Nantes School of Architecture (ENSAN - France) and Universidad Politecnica de Valencia (UPV – Spain) before graduating from her Master’s in 2014. She moved to London to work as an urban designer in 2015 and has since been working on master planning and infrastructure projects for Weston Williamson + Partners. 

In 2018 Constance started her PhD at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, as a part-time student, while still working as an urban designer. She is a feature editor for Design Exchange and has been a guest panellist and assistant tutor at the University of Nottingham, London Metropolitan University, and University of Paris Malaquais.



Constance's studies are funded by EPSRC.

Image: Public space in Copenhagen: Constance Desenfant