Since its founding in 1851, The New York Times has published thousands of obituaries listing the lives and legacies of some of the world’s most influential people. However, by their own admission, the listings have historically been dominated by white men. In order to address this, The Times launched its “Overlooked” series in 2018, telling the stories of women such as Sylvia Plath and Emma Gatewood.
In advance of International Women’s Day, The Times has published an obituary by Alexandra Lange detailing the life and legacy of Julia Morgan, the first woman to earn an architect’s license in California, and “a prolific designer of hundreds of buildings, namely the Hearst Castle at San Simeon."
The American architect and engineer Julia Morgan was born in 1872 in San Francisco. Following her admission as the first woman to attend the prestigious Ecoles des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Morgan returned to her native California to open her own firm in 1904: the first woman to do so. With a focus on residential architecture, she practiced architecture for nearly 50 years, designing more than 700 buildings. Some of her most notable works include the St. John’s Presbyterian Church in Berkeley, Asilomar YWCA in Pacific Grove, and The Hearst Castle in San Simeon. She died in 1957, aged 85.
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In 2014, Morgan was posthumously awarded the AIA Gold Medal, the first woman to receive the top honor, living or dead, in the award’s 106-year history. Awarding the honor, the AIA stated “What stands out most is the vast array of architectural styles [Morgan] employed: Tudor and Georgian houses, Romanesque Revival churches, and Spanish Colonial country estates with an Islamic tinge. Her late-period Beaux-Arts education gave her the ability to design in these historicist styles, gathering up motifs and methods from all of Western architectural history to select the approach most appropriate for each unique site and context.”
The full New York Times obituary can be read on the publication’s website here.
Whether it be the overly-dainty posture of scale model figures or the assumptions of being the in-house decorator, the portrayal of women in architecture is often one of subservience. Despite Despina Stratigakos' hands-on efforts behind Architect Barbie or the global impacts of the legacy of starchitect Zaha Hadid, there continues to be a lack of visibility of women in the profession.