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Julia Morgan’s legacy lives on in Cal Poly architecture students

A cardboard model of a visitor's center with glass doors that swing upward to open.

A tiny city sprung up almost overnight this January in Kennedy Library’s 1st Floor Gallery, thanks to the work of 2nd year architecture students.

The city, or rather, models of buildings all inspired by architect Julia Morgan, was the result of the architecture students’ work last quarter studying the history of the iconic Morgan. Architecture professors and students worked with Kennedy Library’s Special Collections to access Morgan’s own documentation of her work, and then designed projects in response to Morgan’s style of design.

The resulting sketches and models were then displayed at Kennedy Library, and were a great introduction to the architecture world, said Renee Jain, architecture senior and special collections student assistant Renee Jain.

“It’s great for the public to see the process of architecture,” Jain said.

Though each architecture class (or “studio”) was inspired by Julia Morgan, professors chose to focus on different projects from Morgan’s career, and prompted their students to create entirely new and modern designs.

Students in instructor Richard Beller’s studio, for instance, created gender studies centers inspired by Morgan’s Monday Club building.

Beller chose to incorporate the issue of gender into the project because of Morgan’s prominence as a woman in the nearly all-male architecture world, Beller said. Even today, half of Cal Poly’s architecture students are women, but the field is still dominated by men, Beller said.

“Once they get out of school it’s still a white male dominated profession, so I said, ‘Let’s do a center for gender studies,’” Beller said.

All of the studios’ results are stunning, though, said Beller, particularly because these projects are the first full designs these architecture students have produced.

“This is their first ever real project and it’s amazing what they were able to do,” Beller said.

Learn more about the Julia Morgan papers here.

Read more about the architecture students’ projects here.