In the world of architecture, few names are as revered as Julia Morgan. A trailblazer in her field, Morgan was the first woman to receive a degree in architecture from the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Her work is characterized by a unique blend of practicality and beauty, and her designs can be found all over California, from private residences to public buildings. Despite facing significant discrimination as a woman in a male-dominated field, Morgan refused to let this hold her back and instead focused on using her talents to create truly stunning structures. Today, her legacy lives on through the many buildings she designed, as well as through the inspiration she provides to aspiring architects everywhere.
Julia Morgan, over a storied 46 year career, designed around 700 buildings, more than any other architect of the 20th century. The Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California is perhaps one of her most well-known works. She completed that project for William Randolph Hearst.
Most of her work can be seen in California, where she designed churches, residential homes, commercial, educational and public gathering spaces. Such proliference suggests her incredible versatility and adept nature in adapting her sensibilities to match the project at hand.
American Architect → Movement, Inspiration and Influences
Julia Morgan trained in the Beaux-Arts style and was affiliated with the Arts and Crafts movement. This movement emphasized traditional craftsmanship and the use of natural materials in design. She also took inspiration from the natural beauty of California, a state she did a lot of her iconic works.
The Arts and Crafts movement was a counter to the industrialization seen in Britain. It focused on harmony with nature and worksmanship with minimal frills.
Destroying Her Records
Towards the end of her career, Julia ordered the destruction of her blueprints, records and notes with the belief that no one other than her former clients would be interested in the work she did. This was in response to the rise of International Style, characterized by the use of “steel and reinforced concrete, wide windows, uninterrupted interior spaces, simple lines, and strict geometric forms.”
(A Few) Buildings Julia Morgan Designed
- Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California
- Asilomar Conference Grounds, Pacific Grove, California
- Berkeley City Club, Berkeley, California
- Hacienda del Pozo de Verona, Saratoga, California
- Chapel of the Chimes, Oakland, California
- YWCA Building, Honolulu, Hawaii
- St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Berkeley, California
- MacArthur Park Apartments, Los Angeles, California
- Riverside Art Museum, Riverside, California
- Villa Montalvo, Saratoga, California
References for further exploration:
California State Parks. (2015). The Architecture of Julia Morgan in California State Parks. California Department of Parks and Recreation. Retrieved March 3, 2023, from https://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/566/files/JuliaMorganFinalWeb2015.pdf 1
Boutelle, S. H. (1988). Julia Morgan: Architect. Abbeville Press Publishers.