The American Institute of Architects Board of Directors has posthumously awarded the 2014 AIA Gold Medal to Julia Morgan, FAIA, the early 20th-century architect whose copious output of quality work secured her position as the first great female American architect. Morgan is the first woman to ever be given the AIA Gold Medal.
A pivotal figure in the history of American architecture and American women, Julia Morgan accomplished a litany of firsts she used to establish a new precedent for greatness. A building technology expert who was professionally adopted by some of the most powerful post–Gilded Age patrons imaginable, Morgan practiced for nearly 50 years and designed more than 700 buildings of almost every type, including houses, churches, hotels, commercial buildings, and museums. The first woman admitted to the prestigious architecture school at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Morgan designed comfortably in a wide range of historic styles.
Some of her most notable projects include:
St. John’s Presbyterian Church in Berkeley, an excellent example of First Bay architecture. An intimately scaled church, its interior is entirely clad in redwood, including open cross-strut beams that create a sense of humble grace and wonderment.
Asilomar YWCA in Pacific Grove, Calif. This YWCA conference center (Morgan designed approximately 30 YWCAs) is perhaps the largest Arts and Crafts campus complex anywhere, according to Sara Holmes Boutelle’s book Julia Morgan Architect. Its palette of rich natural materials and fluid mix of indoor and outdoor spaces suit its pleasant Northern California climate.
Hearst Castle in San Simeon, Calif., William Randolph Hearst’s seaside retreat, 165 rooms across 250,000 acres, all dripping with detailing that’s opulent bordering on delirious. The style is generally Spanish Colonial but the estate seems to compress Morgan’s skill at operating in different design languages—Gothic and Neo-Classical as well as Spanish Colonial—in one commission.
Learn more about Morgan’s life, architectural designs, and impact on the AIA website.
Credits: Julia Morgan Papers, Special Collections, California Polytechnic State University (Julia Morgan); Mills College, F.W. Olin Library, Special Collections (Mills Library); California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Robert E. Kennedy Library, Sarah Holmes Boutelle Archive (Wyntoon); Mark Anthony Wilson, Julia Morgan, Architect of Beauty (St. Johns; Hearst Castle).