Orla's recent research has focused on two main themes: the Irish rural town and housing design, and their connection with public engagement in architecture and participatory design practice.. In 2018 Orla co-curated Free Market, the Irish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. This large-scale exhibition explores the past, present and future of public space in rural towns, and the challenges and opportunities they continue to encounter. Key issues include vacancy, degradation of the public realm and the effect of mass urbanisation and policy change. This research built upon Orla's book Town: Origins, Morphology and Future, supported by the Arts Council/OPW Kevin Kieran Award and The Heritage Council. As an outcome of Free Market, the curatorial team have presented the work to the Department of Local and Community Affairs and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. Free Market will go on National Tour in 2019. Orla's research in housing combines practice, teaching and publication. She co-coordinated Rising Home, a multi-semester design studio in UCD APEP M.Arch Year 1 with Emmett Scanlon between 2016-2018. Rising Home researched ways in which design could meaningfully contribute to the housing crisis in Ireland by looking at alternative models of multi-unit housing design, adaptive re-use of existing buildings for housing, alternative housing procurement models and housing first design prototypes. The programme collaborated with the Peter McVerry Trust, Dublin City Council, the OPW, Imagine Dundrum, the Housing Agency and The Irish Housing Network over the course of five semesters. Orla is a contributor to a forthcoming book on Irish late twentieth century housing, Out of the Ordinary, edited by Gary Boyd, Michael Pike, and Brian Ward. Orla has collaborated in innovative participatory planning projects connected with both the above themes, including Geodesign Workshop Mulranny (Mulranny Community Futures); Beyond Pebbledash (Dublin City Co.); Mapping Towns Offaly (Offaly Co. Co.); and the Collaborative Town Centre Health Check Pilot Programme (The Heritage Council).