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School of Geography

Conor Moloney


PhD student

Room Number: Geography Building, Room 218



My professional background is in urban design, masterplanning, regeneration and area-based planning policy. I have also worked in research on a range of built environment related topics, taught in design schools in Britain and across Europe, headed up a design advocacy organisation, and held a senior position in a sustainability social enterprise.

Research Interests: Cultural Geography; Urban Studies; Play; Performance; Ritual

PhD research: Playing or being played?

Play and playfulness are increasingly conspicuous in contemporary urban spaces – public spaces, work spaces, retail spaces, leisure spaces, cultural spaces and so on. Here play is not always carefree, and often appears operationalised or even instrumentalised to achieve particular economic, social and spatial outcomes. These unspoken aims are sometimes associated with new digital economic and social forms, sometimes with more enduring challenges such as engaging communities in ‘place-making’, and sometimes with managing diversity and mitigating inequality.

Whilst numerous spatially-led and sectorally-led approaches have separately generated scholarship of considerable value on this topic, the emergence of play as a cross-cutting phenomenon in contemporary culture has yet to be adequately researched, theorised or critically analysed. This is where my enquiry aims to make an intellectual contribution to the field.

Drawing on cultural geography, critical urban studies and the cross-disciplinary scholarship of play, performance and ritual, I examine the motivations, interests, discourses and practices behind this ‘ludic turn’. This study explores the unique potential of play as expressive form and social leveller, but also considers the scope for critical participation and agency to test the boundaries of playful invitations.

This research is co-supervised in the School of Geography and the Department of Drama. London-based fieldwork is planned for 2020-21, with overseas institutional visits in Japan 2019 and Brazil 2021, and thesis completion in 2022.

Academic background

  • Bachelor of Architecture (honours), University College Dublin
  • MSc Cities, Space & Society (distinction), Department of Geography & Environment, London School of Economics
  • MSc International Planning (distinction), Bartlett School of Planning, University College London




  • ‘Spoilsports, killjoys and curmudgeons: tracing the limits of ludic urbanism’ in Dickens, L. & Woodyer, T. (forthcoming 2020) Towards Playful Urban Futures. Axminster: Uniformbooks.






Geography (Undergraduate)

  • GEG4004 Research Methods for Geographers and Environmental Scientists (Demonstrator, 2018-20)
  • GEG4106 Reinventing Britain (Field Trip Staff, 2019-20)
  • GEG5103 Geographical Research in Practice (Teaching Associate & Demonstrator, 2018-20)
  • GEG5131 Contemporary London: Life in the Global Metropolis (Demonstrator, 2018-19)


Architecture & Urban Design (Undergraduate & Postgraduate)

  • Design Studio Lead / Studio Tutor at University College Dublin (1997-2001)
  • Design Studio Visiting Critic / Lecturer / Tutor at Royal College of Art (2018), Dessau Institute of Architecture (2018), SS. Cyril & Methodius University Skopje (2018), Dublin Institute of Technology (2015), University College Dublin (2008), Queens University Belfast (2007), University of Ulster 2003-5), University College London (2004), University of Sheffield (2003).



  • ‘Spoilsports, killjoys and curmudgeons: tracing the limits of ludic urbanism’ in Dickens, L. & Woodyer, T. (forthcoming 2019) Towards Playful Urban Futures. Axminster: Uniformbooks.