Architect Stories: Julia Morgan


A West Coast legend, Julia Morgan is recognized as California's first woman architect. Born in San Francisco on January 20, 1872, Julia was raised in Oakland, California, and pursued an undergraduate degree in civil engineering at the University of California. She was the only woman to complete the program in 1894. Julia studied with Bay Area–architect Bernard Maybeck during her senior year at the University of California, and adopted his philosophy that "houses should look as if they grew on the land." After graduation, Morgan traveled to Paris to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, but was refused admission for two years because the school had never before allowed women to study there. Eventually, Morgan was admitted in the field of architecture.

To find out about her philosophy, and to see photos of her buildings, just read more.

After returning to San Francisco, Julia worked for architect John Galen Howard. Howard, who had won the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Architectural Competition to design a master building plan for the University of California. Julia went on to design houses, churches, clubs, banks, schools, hospitals, and stores.

Julia's buildings are distinguished by her surprisingly ego-less take on designing. She truly listened to her clients' wishes, and designed buildings to fit their aesthetic and needs. Her buildings are also known for their use of locally-available materials, and her integration of Arts and Crafts-, Mediterranean-, and other West Coast–building traditions with her beaux-arts background. Her numerous residential buildings include features such as exposed support beams, horizontal lines that blend into the landscape, extensive use of shingles, California redwood, and earth tones.

Julia's philosophy was that buildings should speak for themselves, and from what I have seen, her buildings speak beautifully.

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