Saturday, December 29, 2007

Architecture was her life...

Tonight, C showed me a book about Julia Morgan, a woman determined to be an architect during an era when women didn’t do this kind of work. She graduated from UC Berkeley in 1894 with a degree in civil engineering. Then, went to Paris in hopes of attending the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. But because she was a woman they would not admit her. So she tried again, and in the meantime, she entered every prestigious architecture contest in Europe. After winning many of the contests, the Ecole finally let her attend.

When she returned to SF, she started her own architecture practice. Through her life, she designed and built over 700 buildings in the SF Bay area. Her most famous project is the Hearst Castle. She also designed the Los Angeles Examiner building, the Fairmont Hotel, private homes, churches, and many others.

Morgan was almost forgotten in later years, but architecture critic, Allan Temko championed her work, kept her in the public eye, helped save a number of her buildings.

Her work is beautiful. That is the best word to describe it. Arched windows and doorways, unique window framings and wrought iron designs, such detail in brick and tile work, curving lines, filigree, all so well done. It’s described as being part of the Arts and Crafts movement. Regardless of the label, it is beautiful.

We attended a dance performance in one of her creations. Originally St. John’s Presbyterian Church, it is now the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts.

And we once stayed in an historic hotel in Berkeley (shown in these 2 photos) that was designed by one of her associates, Walter Steilberg. An aesthetic space that nurtures the human spirit. Difficult to describe, but -- curving staircases, stained glass windows, tiled / hardwood floors, special detail inside and out. [And it was spring and the scent of eucalyptus hung in the air…]

It seems that architecture was her life. She never married, nor had children.
And her contributions still stand, 50+ years after her death.
An inspiring, intriguing life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

as her life was architecture, it was composed of local materials at hand -- redwood - and a vision that swept from her birthplace to Paris. In that sweep from literal home ground to faraway city, she designed places for worshipping who she could become. You know the deep structure of her story since her voyage is yours.