Victoria Henshaw, 1971-2014

A pioneer in the field of sensory studies and urban design has died

October 30, 2014

Victoria Henshaw was born in Rotherham on 28 April 1971 and studied for a BA in consumer services management at Leeds Metropolitan University (1994). She then worked for more than a decade in urban development and managed a pan-European research project on city competitiveness on behalf of the British government. She served as town centre manager and economic development manager for Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council (2000-05), before moving to Sheffield City Council (2005-06). She was then appointed an urban regeneration and renaissance manager for North East Lincolnshire Council (2006-07).

Alongside her burgeoning career, Dr Henshaw returned to university in 2004 for an MA in urban regeneration, and later a postgraduate certificate in urban design (2010), both at Leeds Metropolitan. These led to positions as a research associate in the department of town and regional planning at the University of Sheffield (2010-11) and then at the University of Manchester’s Manchester Architecture Research Centre (2011-13) before she returned to Sheffield as a lecturer in urban design and planning.

Fascinated by the role of the senses, and particularly smell, in the design of cities and buildings, Dr Henshaw carried out research on such themes for a PhD at the University of Salford (2012). She teamed up with architects, urban designers, planners and engineers to create “smellwalks” and investigate more proactive approaches to odour in city design and management. She went on to devise similar “smellwalks” in cities across the UK, Europe and North America and to deliver the cross-disciplinary project Smell and the City at the University of Manchester. She also published a pioneering monograph titled Urban Smellscapes: Understanding and Designing with Smell in the City (2013).

John Flint, head of the department of town and regional planning at the University of Sheffield, praised Dr Henshaw as “an incredibly warm, sociable and collegiate colleague” who “worked tirelessly to bring diverse groups together in their understanding and appreciation of the importance of sensory perceptions and high-quality urban design for the achievement of more liveable and inclusive cities: a goal she believed in passionately and one that she effectively promoted in cities throughout the world”.

“Victoria’s energy was seemingly boundless…conversations with her were full of new ideas and projects as well as laughter. She had a delicious sense of humour and was always offering up a wickedly funny anecdote.”

Dr Henshaw died on 13 October after battling ovarian cancer and is survived by her husband Tony and three children.

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