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Celebrating Julia Morgan, building by building

By Steven Finacom

The work of one of the University of California’s most distinguished alumnae will be showcased during a local architectural tour on Sunday, Nov. 18. Julia Morgan may be best-known as the architect of Hearst Castle at San Simeon, private homes, and buildings for women’s organizations, but many of her finest designs are in Berkeley, including some here on campus.

Hearst Gym

Morgan collaborated with Bernard Maybeck on the ornate Hearst Gymnasium for Women, seen here soon after it opened in 1927.

Besides the tour, there’s also an ongoing Morgan exhibit on campus that runs through Dec. 17.

Morgan graduated from Berkeley in 1894. She earned her degree in civil engineering — the campus did not yet have an architecture department — then went to Paris, becoming the first woman to earn a certificate at the prestigious Ecole de Beaux-Arts.

After returning to the Bay Area, she worked for John Galen Howard on campus projects including the Hearst Mining Building and Greek Theatre. Later she started her own firm, which would ultimately design some 700 buildings and cement her reputation as California’s first prominent woman architect and one of the greatest of all West Coast designers.

The noon-4 p.m. tour, organized by the nonprofit Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, showcases six of Morgan’s designs, including the opulent Berkeley City Club; three private homes (now student living groups) in the Piedmont Avenue district; and, on campus, Hearst Gymnasium, Girton Hall, currently a childcare center, and 2232 Piedmont Ave., a Morgan-designed house now used by the Department of Demography..

The tour route also features an Environmental Design Archives exhibit in Wurster Hall of original Morgan drawings and other items, and a look at the historic Bancroft Hotel, designed by Morgan collaborator Walter Steilberg, whose work resembled hers. Tickets can be purchased in advance online , or on the afternoon of the tour at 2318 Durant Ave., across from the City Club.

Those who want to see the three on-campus buildings only (Hearst Gym, Girton Hall and 2232 Piedmont) can do so for free, but must get a tour badge for admittance Sunday afternoon.

For further details, visit the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association’s website .