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Julia Morgan (San Francisco, USA January 20, 1872 – February 2, 1957) was an American architect. She was the first woman admitted to the School of Fine Arts in Paris and in 1902 she graduated in architecture. She was the first architect of California, her work was prolific, in 50 years of career she designed more than 700 buildings, churches, hospitals, museums, hotels, commercial buildings, community centers, schools, university buildings, clubs, a private zoo, several YWCA buildings and numerous private residences. At least one third of its constructions were commissioned by women’s and feminist organizations that carried out important work in support of women’s education, reflecting the new role that women already claimed at the beginning of the 20th century. he received posthumously the gold medal of the AIA (American Institute of Architects), the most important that an architect can receive in the United States, the first time he gave himself to a woman.
He was born in San Francisco in 1872 in an influential family. His parents were Charles Bill Morgan, who belonged to a family of military, politicians and businessmen of the West Coast of the United States and Eliza Woodland Parmelee, daughter of millionaire businessman Albert O. Parmelee, cotton merchant. They were married in Brooklyn, New York, and their family settled first in San Francisco Bay and later, when Julia was two years old in Oakland. It was the second of five brothers. He had three male brothers Parmelee (1870-1918), Avery (1876-1944) and Gardner Bulkey “Sam” (1880-1913) with whom he had a special relationship, and a sister, Emma (1874-1965). Charles Morgan had little success in his projects so they depended economically on Eliza’s family.
In 1878, Eliza took her children to live near her family in New York for a year, while Charles worked in San Francisco. In New York, Julia contacted her cousin Lucy Thornton married to the prestigious architect Pierre LeBrun, who together with her father Napoleon LeBrun (Napoleon LeBrun & Sons) designed the Metropolitan Life Tower skyscraper. When Julia returned to Oakland, she continued to contact LeBrun, who encouraged her to study a university career.
In July 1880 her maternal grandfather died and her grandmother moved to the house in Oakland, taking her family wealth with her, a situation that reinforced in Julia the perception of the role of independent and autonomous women capable of managing their economy and his life. When her parents tried to marry her Julia argued that before she should finish her career. Her parents supported her. He never married and devoted himself to his profession during all his life.
Training in Berkeley
He completed his primary studies at Oakland High School, graduated in 1890 and enrolled at the University of Berkeley to study civil engineering, partly according to historian Sara Holmes because there were no architecture schools on the West Coast, where She was the only woman in the class, where she connected with the women’s networks. With other partners he organized a section of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), created sports teams and successfully fought for access to the gym. Also started in the Kappa Alpha Theta women’s fraternity, an exclusive group created in 1870 to support those who started to access universities.
In the meetings organized by the brotherhood, he could have met the rich feminist philanthropist Phoebe Apperson Hearst, widow of Senator George Hearst patron of Berkeley University who later became one of her most important clients with her son the press mogul William Randolph Hearst. The sisterhood of women also built the residence where Julia Morgan lived in her student days unlike the majority of university women who lived with her family and had to divide their attention between family matters and academic work.
In the last years of university he had as professor the architect Bernard Maybeck who Morgan admired for the respect of the environment and the environment of his projects. He was his mentor at Berkeley and encouraged him to continue his studies at the School of Fine Arts in Paris, the most prestigious architecture school in the world. She graduated in 1894 becoming one of the first graduated women in engineering at the University of Berkeley. For two years he was working with Maybeck.
School of Fine Arts in Paris
In 1896 he traveled to Paris to study at the School of Fine Arts but his enrollment was denied because he did not accept women. Thanks to the effort and activism of the union of French women artists were able to be admitted in the summer courses of 1896 but official studies continued to be vetoed for them until a year later, 1897 when they were finally authorized to take the entrance exams. Morgan was suspended twice but after two years of study and tutored by the architect François-Benjamin Chaussemiche who met in 1898 and who was his mentor, he finally passed the exam.
Morgan received architectural training and discovered her feminist consciousness for the constant challenges she was forced to overcome to enter a profession dominated by men. She finished her studies in 1902 and became the first woman with official architecture studies from the School of Fine Arts in Paris.
During the 6 years of his stay in Paris, he traveled through Europe in his spare time and studied many of the main buildings of Western architecture, filling several sketchbooks with watercolors and line drawings. During his student years he won 3 medals in mathematics, architecture and design and 26 mentions for the quality of his work and advanced the courses in half the time that the other students achieved the certificate in 1902 before his 30th birthday as established by the School standard.
While studying in Paris he collaborated in the workshop of Marcel Pérouse de Monclos (1896 – 1898) and the workshop of François-Benjamin Chaussemiche (1898 – 1902).
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