This fall is the perfect time to explore the art and architecture of Julia Morgan (1872-1957), the first woman ever licensed as an architect in California. From October through November, the Julia Morgan 2012 Festival is bringing together tours, talks, exhibits and events throughout California in a six-week celebration of Morgan’s work.
“In this centennial year of California women’s first vote, it’s particularly exciting to celebrate Julia Morgan,” says Karen McNeill, a historian and Morgan scholar involved in the festival. Julia Morgan did more than just open doors for future women architects, McNeill points out: “She spent most of her career designing a landscape for women – they designed it, contributed to building it, worked in it, promoted and effected all sorts of Progressive Era reform in it.”Hearst Castle, of course, is the Morgan masterpiece we all know—but she actually designed an incredible 700 buildings in her lifetime, most of them here in California. Luckily, festival events are happening all over the state, so chances are there’s something going on near you.
For those in the Bay Area, the historic Berkeley City Club is kicking off the festival with an evening gala event on October 12. The City Club, which Julia Morgan designed in 1930, was originally a women’s clubhouse, but it feels more like a Mediterranean castle with its majestic arched windows, lush courtyards and dramatic Romanesque indoor pool. (Swim it with a night’s stay in one of the hotel rooms!) Another beautiful but lesser-known Morgan building, San Francisco’s Native Daughters of the Golden West clubhouse, will open its doors October 6-7 for a weekend tour and tea as part of the festival.If you’re near Monterey, your must-see destination is the Asilomar State Beach & Conference Grounds, home to eleven Julia Morgan buildings in classic, wood-rich Arts and Crafts style. Every weekend in October, Asilomar will host walking tours of Morgan’s buildings—or, for a full weekend experience, Asilomar’s Julia Morgan Discovery Package gives you a two-night stay, November 2-4, in one of the Morgan lodges, along with a day trip to Hearst Castle. The contrast between these two places is astonishing. “Asilomar seeks harmony with nature, emphasizes self-restraint and community, and shows us how California women tried to shape the landscape,” McNeill explains. “Hearst Castle is a phenomenal feat of engineering with many points of interest in terms of architecture, design, craftsmanship, landscape architecture, and antiques, but is really one powerful man’s fantasy writ large.”
Santa Monica has its own hidden Julia Morgan gem, the Annenberg Beach House, a magnificent 110-room mansion where the architect herself once lived. Previously closed to the public, the Beach House just opened in 2009 as a state park and community center. It will celebrate the festival with a Morgan exhibit and tours, opening with a reception on October 14.
For more places to find the Julia Morgan 2012 Festival, check out the full calendar of events online at Landmarks California, the volunteer coalition coordinating it all.