Orla Murphy MRIAI is part-time Assistant Professor in UCD School of Architecture Planning and Environmental Policy, Co-Director of UCD Centre for Irish Towns (CfIT) and owner of Custom Architecture, a collaborative micro-practice focused on design, research and public engagement with architecture. In 2021 Orla was selected to join a High-Level Roundtable for the New European Bauhaus.

Orla lives in Westport Co. Mayo and her research has been driven by a focus on rural towns. In 2008, she was appointed architect in residence in Cavan town culminating in an exhibition and publication entitled Atlas of Cavan. In 2009 Orla was awarded the Arts Council/OPW Kevin Kieran Award, which supported a two-year design research project looking at the past, present and future of towns using a case study approach that mapped Bandon, Longford, New Ross and Westport. Arising from this research in 2012 Orla published Town: Origins, Morphology & Future, with support of the Heritage Council, and accompanied this book with short animated film, TOWN, co-directed with Orla McHardy. The research on towns received an RIAI Award.

In 2017 Orla, together with Jeffrey Bolhuis, Miriam Delaney, Jo Anne Butler, Tara Kennedy and Laurence Lord, was appointed to co-curate the Irish Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Biennale. The pavilion, Free Market, explored the history, present and future of public space within Irish market towns. Free Market toured to four towns – Castleblayney, Macroom, Mountmellick and Killmallock – as part of its subsequent national tour in 2019 and was awarded by both the AAI and the RIAI. The Free Market team has presented their findings from the public engagement strand of the exhibition to the Dáil Committee on Rural and Community Development and the Department of Housing.  

Orla co-authored the Town Centre Living Initiative Synthesis report with Dr Philip Crowe and Madeleine Leyes. She established the UCD Centre for Irish Towns in 2019 with Philip Crowe, the aim of which is to gather together researchers across disciplines whose interests intersect with towns, to build connected and cross-cutting research related to our towns. Orla is also co-presenter of the RTÉ documentary series Building Ireland, which explores Ireland’s built heritage from the perspective of architecture, engineering and geography. The series has recently broadcast its third season.

Relevant links:

UCD profile: https://people.ucd.ie/o.murphy

Free Market: http://www.freemarket.ie/

Town, animated short film: https://vimeo.com/98429001

Town Centre Living Initiative Synthesis Report: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/86215-the-town-centre-living-initiative/

Contact: orla@customarchitecture.ie