30 November 2012

Julia Morgan, Architect to Town and Gown

The Maybeck house in 1902 (Dimitri Shipounoff collection, BAHA archives)

At U.C. Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design, women currently make up 57% of the undergraduates majoring in architecture, and about half of the graduate architecture students.

In the spring of 1894, when Julia Morgan (1872–1957) graduated from Cal with a degree in civil engineering, she was the only woman in her class. The university did not offer architecture courses at that time (the College of Architecture would not be founded until 1903, under John Galen Howard), and the only option open to engineering students who were interested in following an architectural career was to take an independent course in architectural design offered by Bernard Maybeck and held in his house.

Maybeck was selective. His design students were the crème de la crème and included an impressive array of future luminaries: Harvey Wiley Corbett (co-designer of New York’s Rockefeller Center); Edward H. Bennett (co-author of the Chicago city plan with Daniel H. Burnham); Lewis P. Hobart (architect of San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral and Bohemian Club); John Bakewell, Jr. and Arthur Brown, Jr. (who would collaborate on the city halls of San Francisco and Berkeley); G. Albert Lansburgh (designer of many theatres, including the Warfield and Golden Gate in San Francisco, the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles and, with Arthur Brown, San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House); and Loring P. Rixford (architect of the Sacramento City Library). Bakewell described the course as combining design theory and a period of practical application, during which the students worked on the additions to Maybeck’s house.

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