Newsletter | Nov/Dec 1973

Julia Morgan Lecture

by Wendy Bertrand
Many people know Julia Morgan was a great Architect, yet few can tell you why.
Richard Longstreth, Associate in Architectural History at the University of California, Berkeley explained the WHY during his lecture Nov 28, 1973 on the Berkeley campus. Well armed with excellent slides, Longstreth opened with the above thought, he then introduced his lecture by promising to demonstrate that the public images of Morgan's work being typical of Hearst Castle or the brown shingle residences
were myths.

Longstreth presented confidently that Morgan's contribution during her period, 1890's to 1940's was much broader in scope and not at all limited to the above myths. With an amazing number of examples he proceeded to prove that she had a distinquishable ability to deal with a variety of commissions. She would produce equally well, a large country home, a low budget church, YWCAs, which she did many along the coast, or modest residences on small subdivided lots. Longstreth strengthened his thesis by comparing her ability to take pride in and master any commission; small or large, rich or poor. brown shingle or eclectic with some of her contemporaries.
After seeing lots of Julia Morgan's work, the myths surrounding her dissolve. Longstreth explained that although she worked with Hearst for 15 years on the Hearst Castle, her influence there was one of order and logistics rather than total design responsibility. Hearst himself was really the commanding force behind this unbelievable combination of collected items. One of the slides showed her original design of the Hearst Castle, which was very unlike the present extravaganza. Richard Longstreth stressed qualities her works share with the works of other great Architects: her sense of order, her exceptional care with details, her respect for materials and her ability to design and produce well even the most modest of Commissions. She was known to constantly. consult with contractors she worked with, about her design details and for estimating purposes. She was known to follow every project in her office from beginning to end and was known to supervise many buildings during construction for her own work, as well as for others for-, example the Hearst Mining Building on the Berkeley Campus, by Gailland Howard.

As an historian, Longstreth looks at Morgan within her period. He pointed out that this period of American Architecturehas not been well documented and he feels it is a significant period becasue of the variety of styles well executed by single architects, including Julia Morgan who made her life Architecture. Although she detested publicity, and therefore did not publish . we can depend on historians, and others such as Doris Cole who will include Julia Morgan in her book to be published soon by i pressto dig up the Information about her and speak out to dissolve the myths and ignorance that surround her and about other women in Architecture.

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