Julia Morgan, the first female architect to win the AIA Gold Award, designed the buildings at Asilomar Conference Grounds // (c) 2013 Asilomar Conference Grounds
Julia Morgan, the first female architect to win the AIA Gold Award, designed the buildings at Asilomar Conference Grounds // (c) 2013 Asilomar Conference Grounds

Who was the first female architect to win the AIA Gold Award?

Julia Morgan, the first female architect to win the AIA Gold Award, designed the buildings at Asilomar Conference Grounds // (c) 2013 Asilomar Conference Grounds
Julia Morgan, the first female architect to win the AIA Gold Award, designed the buildings at Asilomar Conference Grounds // (c) 2013 Asilomar Conference Grounds

In December 2013, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) posthumously awarded the 2014 AIA Gold Medal to Julia Morgan, FAIA, whose extensive body of work encompasses more than 700 buildings of almost every type, including houses, churches, hotels, commercial buildings, and museums.

The AIA Gold Medal, voted on annually, is considered to be the profession’s highest honor that an individual can receive. The Gold Medal honors an individual whose significant body of work has had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture.

Morgan, who died in 1957, won a litany of firsts she, blazing trails for women everywhere. 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 Ecoles des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Morgan designed comfortably in a wide range of historic styles.

“Julia Morgan is unquestionably among the greatest American architects of all time and a true California gem,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in her recommendation letter. “Morgan’s legacy has only grown over the years. She was an architect of remarkable breadth, depth, and consistency of exceptional work, and she is widely known by the quality of her work by those who practice, teach, and appreciate aciphex no prescription architecture.”

Born in 1872, Morgan grew up in Oakland, Calif. One of the first women to study civil engineering at the University of California-Berkeley, she went on to become the first women to graduate from the prestigious Ecoles des Beaux-Arts, the most prominent architecture school of its day. In 1904, she became the first women licensed to practice architecture in California, and opened her own firm. Morgan joined the AIA in 1921 as only the seventh female member.

Morgan’s Notable Projects

Asilomar YWCA
Pacific Grove, Calif.
Asilomar Conference Grounds; which was originally a camp where young Victorian women could learn vital skills such as typing and sewing, consisted of sixteen buildings constructed between 1913 and 1929. Eleven buildings are still standing today, and all of the original buildings designed by Morgan are listed on the National Historic Registry.

Commissioned by the Young Woman Christian Association (YWCA) and Phoebe Apperson Hearst, mother of William Randolph Hearst, and preserved by the State Park Service and run by ARAMARK Parks and Destinations, the facility recently celebrated its 100th anniversary.

During a time where women could not yet vote, Morgan and Asilomar showed that women could be self-sufficient and provide value outside the home.

Hearst Castle
San Simeon, Calif.
William Randolph Hearts’ 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, Neoclassical, as well as Spanish Colonial, all into one commission.