Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

Architect, of Dublin. John Joseph O' Gorman, son of John O'Gorman, an excise officer from Templetenny, Co. Tipperary, and his wife Josephine, was born in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, in 1908.(1)   After attending the Christian Brothers' School at Kilkenny and Blackrock College, he enrolled in the School of Architecture at University College, Dublin, in 1927. He would have preferred to study art, but said later that his father would have shot him if he had chosen to do so. The following year he won the Irish Builder prize for measured drawings with his drawings of the Office of Arms at Dublin Castle.(2) While he was at University College his uncompromising enthusiasm for the new architectural developments in Europe and the United States was frustrated by the conservatism of the professor of architecture at University College, RUDOLF MAXIMILIAN BUTLER RUDOLF MAXIMILIAN BUTLER , who was impervious to the attractions of the modern movement and insisted on a Classical idiom for student projects; nor did he find the 'half-baked' modernism of ROBINSON & ROBINSON & amp; KEEFE, in whose office he worked part time for the last two years of the course, any more to his liking. As a student he went to see new buildings in Holland. He founded the college's Architectural Society and after graduating, also established the Architectural Graduates' Association. He started to write articles on architecture in Ireland in newspapers and journals, and, from 1935 onwards, was a regular contributor to the Irish Builder, sometimes under the pseudonym 'Wisbech'. He remained a passionate advocate of the international style and a merciless critic of the older generation of architects in Ireland. As architectural critic of the Irish Builder, he made further visits to continental Europe. In 1937 he organized an exhibition of modern architecture, which the RIAI refused to support. At about the same time, in partnership with EOGHAN BUCKLEY EOGHAN BUCKLEY , he set up his own practice at 21 Merrion Square. The partnership came to an end when he emigrated to Canada in December 1953 to take up a position in the Canadian Department of Defence.(3) He later worked in commercial practice in Massachusetts. He returned to Ireland in the late 1960s to resume practice and to teach at the Bolton Street College of Technology. After his retirement in the mid-1970s he continued to draw and paint in watercolours, having never lost his early interest in art.(4) He died in 1994.

The Irish Architectural Archive holds a large quantity of material by and relating toJohn O'Gorman, including student drawings, architectural designs for projects in Ireland, the United States and Canada, sketches made while on his travels, photographs, articles, press cuttings and ephemera (Accs. 88/094, 89/001, 90/089, 95/077, 96/073, 2000/38, 2002/146, 2009/082).

AAI:(5) delivers lecture, 'Irish Architecture Today and Tomorrow', 2 Mar 1937;  member, 1945; president, 1953-54.
RIAI: winner of Kerner-Greenwood travelling scholarship, with measured drawings of Honington Hall, Warwickshire, 1929;(6) elected member, 1934;(7) hon. secretary, 1941.
RIBA: elected fellow, 1954.(8)

Addresses:(9) Work: 21 Merrion Square, 1937-1953.

Home: 22 Glenart Avenue, Blackrock, <=1928->=1933; 2 Upper Ely Place, Dublin, 1935; 11 South Leinster Street, 1936;  Wisbech, Glenart Avenue, Blackrock, 1946;(10)  Foley Road, RR2, Aylmer E, P.Q., Canada, 1954; 285 Ferndale Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, 1957; 33 Bailey Avenue, Watertown, Mass., USA, 1958-1959; 7 Beltry Terrace, Lexington, Mass., 1960; 2 Sherman Street, Lexington, Massachusetts, 1963-1968; 202 Lower Kilmacud Road, Dublin, 1971; 3 Scotia, de Vesci Court, Dun Laoghaire, 1972-1979; 13 Glenart Avenue, Blackrock, 1980 until death.



All information in this entry not otherwise attributed is from the account of O'Gorman in Sean Rothery, Ireland and the New Architecture 1900-1940 (1991), 121-131, which see for further details, and from the biography in IB 82, 9 Nov 1940, 673, which is illustrated with a portrait photograph. Other photographs of O'Gorman are in Father Mathew Record (Jan 1935), Capuchin Annual (1940), 377, and IB 95, 24 Oct 1953, 1099. He appears in the group photograph taken on the occasion of Walter Gropius's lecture to the AAI, 10 November 1936, which is reproduced in Rothery, op. cit., 129.

(1) UK census, 1911.
(2) IB 70, 22 Dec 1928, 1066.
(3) IB 96, 2 Jan 1954, 10.
(4) He exhibited paintings at the Royal Hibernian Academy between 1933 and 1944.
(5) Information from lists of officers and members in AAI Green Books; AAI Green Book, 1937-38, 47.
(6) Survey notes and measured drawings in IAA, Accs. 2002/146 and 2009/082, Box 1; JRIAI (1930), 14; Architect & Building News 126, 12 Jun 1931, 368-9(illus.).
(7) JRIAI (1936), 19.
(8) RIBA Kalendar 1957-1958, 406, but no record of this in RIBAJ 61 or 62.
(9) From RIAI lists of members and RHA Index, III, 33.
(10) University College Dublin: Register of Graduates (1946), 170.

1 work entries listed in chronological order for O'GORMAN, JOHN JOSEPH

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Date: 1947-48
Nature: New flat-roofed and rendered house for himself
Refs: Paul Larmour, Free State Architecture:  Modern Movement architecture in Ireland, 1922-1949 (Kinsale: Gandon Editions, 2009)  92,93 (illus.).

Author Title Date Details
O'gorman, John 'What a graduate architect can do for you'
Graduate News, Oct 1934, 5.
O'gorman, John 'In search of architecture:  Mr E. Maxwell Fry at the Architectutral Association.'
Article by 'Wisbech' in IB 81, 18 Feb 1939, 127.
O'gorman, John 'The Royal Hibernian Academy:  The "Architectural" Section.'
Article by 'Wisbech' in IB 81, 15 apr 1939, 313.
O'gorman, John 'Paint'

Comhtrom Féinne, May 1934.
O'gorman, John 'The RHA Exhibition'
1835 Review in National Student , Apr 1935.
O'gorman, John 'Spoiled architects, deserters from the drawing borad' 1935 IB 77, 24 Aug 1935, 753.
O'gorman, John 'Industry and Commerce Offices Competition'
1935 Letter, signed 'Fair Play', to IB 77, 30 Nov 1935, ?.
O'gorman, John 'Church building in Ireland' 1935 Father Mathew Record (Jan 1935).
O'gorman, John 'Ireland and the new Architecture' 1935 Irish Press, 25 Jul 1935.
O'gorman, John 'Church Furnishing'
1935 Father Mathew Record (? 1935).
O'gorman, John 'Stands at the RDS'
1935 Letter, dated 20 Jul 1935, to Irish Builder, ? ? 1935, 675.
O'gorman, John 'Barbara Robertson's Pictures'
1935 Unsigned review of exhibitions of paintings by Barbara Robertson and Brigid O'Brien in IB 77, 2 Nov 1935, ?.
O'gorman, John 'Irish Tu-Quoque'
1935 Article signed 'Astragal' in AJ, 3 Oct 1935, ? (about articles on International Modern style by J.O'G and H.T. O Rourke in Irish Press and letter to same from Fergus Ryan).
O'gorman, John 'The flag on the chimney'
1935 National Student, Jul 1935), ?,7.
O'gorman, John 'Irish Architecture'
1935 Comhtrom Féinne, May 1935, 27.
O'gorman, John 'Talking about cathedrals'
1935 National Student, Aug 1935, 35.
O'gorman, John 'Abercrombie at the RDS: the Pith of Town Planning'
1936 IB 78, 22 Feb 1936, ?
O'gorman, John 'Compeitition for offices for the Department of Industry and Commerce: the winning design reviewed'
1936 IB 78, 25 Jan 1936, 64-65.
O'gorman, John 'Competition for offices for the Deparment of Industry and Commerce:  some other designs reviewed'
1936 IB 78, 8 Feb 1936, ?
O'gorman, John 'An architect on a "busman's holiday":  further impressions in Germany'
1936 IB 78, 31 Oct 1936, ?.
O'gorman, John 'Architectural Education and the Irish Free State'
1936 IB 78, 21 Mar 1936, ?.
O'gorman, John 'Architectural Education in the Irish Free State:  the enquiry continued'
1936 IB 78, 4 Apr 1936, ?.
O'gorman, John 'Architectural Education in the Irish Free State:  some Speculations'
1936 IB 78, 2 May 1936, 362.Save
O'gorman, John 'Architectural Criticism:  an Inconclusive Commentary'
1936 IB 78, 13 Jun 1936, ?.
O'gorman, John 'Quotations from a Sculptor's '"Credo"'
1936 IB 78, 27 Jun 1936, ?.
O'gorman, John '"Men Were Deceivers Ever"'
1936 IB 78, ? ? 1936, ?.
O'gorman, John 'An architect on a "busman's holiday":  impressions in Belgium and Germany'
1936 IB 78, 17 Oct 1936, ?.
O'gorman, John 'A Question of Trespass'
1936 Letter (signed 'Query') published in IB 78, 28 Nov 1936, ?.
O'gorman, John [Editorial comment on collapse of stand at Bucharest]
1936 Irish Builder, 13 Jun 1936, ?.
O'gorman, John 'An architect on a "busman's holiday":  a community of artists'
1936 IB 78, ? ? 1936, ?.
O'gorman, John '"The international trend of modern architecture":  Dr Walter Gropius at the AAI'
1936 IB 78, ? ? 1936, ?.
O'gorman, John 'Building and order' 1936 Capuchin Annual (1936), 118-132.
O'gorman, John 'Dr Walter Gropius, the international trend of modern architecture' 1936 Ireland Today I, no. 7 (Dec 1936), 57-59.
O'gorman, John 'Dr Walter Gropius: "The International Trend of Modern Architecture"'
1936 Account of lecture by Gropius in Ireland Today, Dec 1936, 57-59
O'gorman, John 'Exhibition of international architecture'
1937 IB 79, 9 Jan 1937, ?.
O'gorman, John 'The art of church building'
1937 Letter to Irish Independent, 2 Jan 1937.
O'gorman, John '"National Style" of Irish Architecture'
1937 Irish Independent, 11 Jan 1937.
O'gorman, John 'Dawn of new era in architecture:  developments abroad and their influence in Ireland'
1937 Review of exhibition of photographs at School of Art, Kildare St, in Irish Independent, 12 Jan 1937.
O'gorman, John 'An architect on a "busman's holiday":  concluding impressions of a short tour in Germany'
1937 IB 79, ? Jan 1937, ?.
O'gorman, John 'A question of trespass'
1937 Letter (signed 'Query') in IB 79, 23 Jan 1937, ?.
O'gorman, John 'The Assistant's Place in the Sun.  The Problem of the Anonymous Architect.'
1937 Article by 'Wisbech' in IB 89, 20 Feb 1937.
O'gorman, John 'Roya lHibernian Academy Edhibition:  Likes and Dislikes.'
1937 Article by 'Wisbech' in IB 79, 27 May 1937, 480.
O'gorman, John 'Sermons in stones' 1937 Bonaventura 1, no. 1 (Summer 1937), 221-2.
O'gorman, John 'Heresy' 1937 Bonaventura 1, no. 2 (Autumn, 1937), 223-4.
O'gorman, John 'Prophets, honoured or otherwise' 1937 Bonaventura 1, no. 3 (Winter, 1937), 208-10.
O'gorman, John 'The new architecture explained.  The MARS Group Exhibition in London'
1938 Article by 'Wisbech' in IB 80, 22 Jan 1938, 50?
O'gorman, John 'Bedford Square v. Portland Place:  Some Comments on "Focus".'
1938 Article by 'Wisbech' in IB 80, 12 Nov 1938, 952.
O'gorman, John 'An Irish architect considers'
1938 Articles in Irish Builders' and Decorators' Review Oct 1938, 130; Dec 1938, 170.
O'gorman, John 'Slums' 1938 Bonaventura 2, no. 4 (Spring, 1938), 155-6.
O'gorman, John 'An open letter to an architect one hundred years hence'
1939 Article in architectural supplement to Irish Times, 21 Jun 1939.
O'gorman, John 'Architecture'
1939 Article in Graduate News, Jun-Jul 1939, 51.
O'gorman, John 'Church Architecture - the Skeleton at the Feast'
1939 Article in architectural supplement to Irish Press, 22 Jun 1939.
O'gorman, John 'The arts and sciences in Ireland today' 1939 Radio talk, Dublin, 1939. (Typescript in IAA?))
O'gorman, John 'To an architect one hundred years hence' 1939 Article (in form of a letter) Article in 'Architecture Yesterday and Today', supplement to Irish Times, 21 Jun 1939, 16
O'gorman, John 'Church Architecture - the skeleton at the feast' 1939 Irish Press: RIAI Centenary Souvenir-Number, 22 Jun 1939, 7.
O'gorman, John 'Architecture and Catholocism' 1939 Capuchin Annual (1939), 85-90.
O'gorman, John "Professor Bruno Taut:  a Valedictory by "Wisbech."'
1939? IB 80?, ? Jan1939?, ?.
O'gorman, John 'Eric Gill. A Tribute by 'Wisbech'' 1940 IB 82, 7 Dec 1940, 727
O'gorman, John 'The RHA: the architecture section' 1940 IB 82, 27 Apr 1940, 278.
O'gorman, John 'Norwegian Notebook'
1940 Articles in IB 82, 8 Jun,6 Jul,14,28 Sep,12 Oct 1940, 367-8,435-6,565-6,591-2,619-20.
O'gorman, John 'Irish Architecture' 1943 Irish Art Handbook (1943), 63-6
O'gorman, John 'Obituary - Harry Allberry' 1952;1953 IB 94, 8 Nov 1952, 1047-8; reprinted in RIAI Year Book (1953), 18-20.
O'gorman, John 'Nostalgia' 1987 Irish Architect 61 (April-May 1987), 62-63.