Seventy Years Later Women Finally Recognized by AIA
Julia Morgan design Wyntoon, a northern villa estate for William Randolph Hearst on 50,000 acres of forested land near Mount Shasta in Northern California to house Hearst’s German collection of art and objects.
Female equality and empowerment has come a long way, no thanks to the American Institute of Architects (AIA), which for the first time in its seventy year history is to award a female architect the AIA Gold Medal, albeit posthumously. Perhaps the past year’s highly publicized Twitter management and executive hiring practices which also lacked a woman played a part or the recent hiring of the Detroit’s first female CEO by one of the big three automotive makers. Whatever the reason, Julia Morgan [1872-1957], a woman of many firsts, deservedly will receive the AIA Gold Medal.
Julia Morgan was the first women to study civil engineering at the University of California-Berkeley, the first woman to attend the Ecoles des Beaux-Arts, the first woman licensed to practice architecture in California, and opened her own firm. Morgan was not only the first but, one of the best architects regardless of gender. Top clients of her day, like William Randolph Hearst, chose Morgan to design his private castle, San Simeon, still widely considered one of America’s finest homes.
Hearst Castle San Simeon by Julia Morgan.
Morgan skillfully worked in the Late Beaux-Arts style, which borrowed rules and forms from past centuries and combined them to architectural programs of the day. In Julia Morgan’s fifty year architectural career, she designed over seven hundred buildings. AIA Gold Medal winning architect, Michael Graves had this to say about Morgan,”She designed buildings to fit her clients, blending design strategy with structural articulation in a way that was expressive and contextual, leaving us a legacy of treasures that were as revered when she created them as they are cherished today.”
Redwood Grove House by Julia Morgan.
Julia never married or had children, and had no heir to kept her firm going after she retired in 1951. She died a recluse in 1957, a time when Modernism had negatively politicized and polemicized nearly every design decision made by architects throughout history, including hers. Now, years later, in a post-Modern world, her brilliance, skill, and determination can once again be recognized and stand as a beacon for other young women considering an architectural career. Congratulations Julia.