O'Rourke, Horace Tennyson (1880–1963), architect and town planner, was born 21 March 1880 in the family home at 34 Richmond Place North, Dublin, son of Francis P. O'Rourke, an accountant from ‘a noted professional family’, and Martha O'Rourke (née Rafferty). Horace's name on his birth certificate is stated as ‘Horace Patrick Joseph’ but subsequently his second and third names were exchanged for ‘Tennyson’. He had at least three brothers – Aubrey Vincent, and A. J., who was chief accountant in the land commission and who, with his brother Frank, helped to establish the Metropole Cinema in Dublin. Horace was admitted as a pupil at the O'Brien Institute, Marino, on 1 July 1892. Where he received his architectural training is not recorded. From 1905 to 1916 he worked with a number of private architectural practices in Limerick and Dublin. His architectural output while in private practice up to 1916 included a range of public and private commissions. During this period he was also a frequent entrant in a wide range of design competitions, including a design for the new park at Fairview.
In 1916 he was appointed to the permanent staff of Dublin corporation, serving as assistant city architect to Charles J. McCarthy from 1918 to 1922, when he became Dublin city architect, a position he retained until his retirement in June 1945. As city architect O'Rourke, ‘the present keen and earnest city architect’ (‘We twa’: the reminiscences of Lord and Lady Aberdeen, ii (1925), 191), presided over the city as it doubled in both population and area. With the guidance of Raymond Unwin, O'Rourke was responsible for the redesign and rebuilding of much of O'Connell St. after its destruction in the 1916–22 hostilities. He undertook the reconstruction of Charlemont House as an art gallery and civic museum. He was responsible for the design of numerous housing schemes, including part of the garden suburb at Marino, a major housing scheme at Marrowbone Lane, and the initial element of the Mercer St. flats. Even though he visited modern housing schemes abroad, O'Rourke remained a traditionalist in his architectural taste, and by the mid 1930s he was increasingly at odds with the emerging ‘modern movement’ in architecture, and with what he saw as its scant regard for the historical context or any sense of natural evolution. However, in an address to the Architectural Association of Ireland in 1940 entitled ‘The control of building elevations’, O'Rourke provided a fair and reasoned outline of his architectural ideas and their rationale.
But it is for his wider interest in the emerging science of town planning and its potential benefits for Dublin that he may be best remembered. In 1911 Horace O'Rourke with G. P. Sheridan founded The Irish Architect and Craftsman. O'Rourke used this journal over its three-year existence to keep readers abreast of developments in town planning, both internationally and at home.
O'Rourke was influenced by Professor Patrick Geddes and his approach to civics and town planning. O'Rourke was active in the Civics Institute of Ireland, becoming chairman of the Dublin civic survey committee. He was the principal author of the magnificent and inspirational 1925 Dublin civic survey report, which was intended to form the basis for a city plan. He was an active member of the Dublin Civic Week committees in 1927 and 1929, and most of his public addresses and pronouncements during the 1930s were more concerned with town planning than architecture per se. In his addresses throughout the 1930s he regretted the absence of a town plan to ensure the city's development with regard to the principles of order, beauty, and convenience, as well as good economics.
From 1900 to 1927 O'Rourke was an elected member of the Architectural Association of Ireland. From 1920 to 1947 he was an elected member of the Royal Institution of the Architects of Ireland, being raised to fellow in 1924. He was elected as a licentiate of the RIBA in 1910, becoming a fellow in 1932. He was also a member of the Town Planning Institute, and in 1942 he was awarded the new RIBA distinction in town planning.
Horace T. O'Rourke resided at a variety of addresses in Limerick and Dublin before moving to ‘Lytleholme’, Cabra Road, in 1914; from 1927 until 1947 he resided at ‘Brentwood’, Brendan Road, Donnybrook. Predeceased by his wife Anna (née Fisher), he died 30 December 1963. He was survived by one son, D. B. O'Rourke, architect to the Office of Public Works, and by five daughters. His funeral took place on 2 January 1964 from St Michael's church, Dún Laoghaire, to Deansgrange cemetery.