Julia Morgan

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Part 3 of a month-long celebration of Women’s History Month 

Julia Morgan (1872-1957) had a habit for firsts: she was the first woman to be admitted to the architecture program at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the first female architect licensed in the state of California. While not the first woman to earn a degree in engineering at Berkeley, she was the only woman in her class to do so.

In a stunningly prolific practice, Morgan oversaw an office staffed with draftsmen who assisted the production of some 700 projects in her long career. Her great facility with style, vast knowledge of materials, and sensitivity to context explains the tremendous diversity in her portfolio; and yet all the buildings reveal the strong Ecole method that she mastered in Paris, promoting rational planning, axial clarity in circulation, and adoption of legible historical traditions.

Although her selection by the AIA as a Gold Medalist was well-earned, its bestowal in 2013, a half-century after her death, and in the face of other eligible living architects, remains a curious gesture by an orgnaiztion that remains regrettably out of step with reasonable approaches to equity in the plagued profession.

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