The Cal Poly College of Architecture and Environmental Design is hosting an exhibition featuring artifacts by renowned architect Julia Morgan, to the Cal Poly University Art Gallery in Dexter Building.

The “Julia Morgan, Architect: Challenging Convention” exhibition, which will be open Jan. 15 through Feb. 11, features Morgan’s original drawings, photographs and personal and professional correspondances, and celebrates her accomplishments within the architecture space.

It will be open to the public for in-person viewings Tuesdays – Saturdays, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. A similar interactive virtual tour will also be open to the public through April 30.

Morgan became California’s first female licensed architect in 1904. She designed more than 700 buildings throughout her career, including Hearst Castle in San Simeon. 

She was also the first woman to be accepted to and graduate from the Ècole des Beaux-Arts architecture program in Paris, and the first woman to receive the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal, the highest honor in the architecture profession.

The exhibit will present the challenges that Morgan faced as a female architect at the turn of the 20th century through a collection of artifacts from Special Collections and Archives at Cal Poly’s Kennedy Library. It will also include voiceovers from actors describing the hallmarks and challenges of Morgan’s career.

The featured artifacts showcase Morgan’s unique architectural designs and her integration of “diverse and seemingly unrelated styles and technologies,” according to a press release from Cal Poly News. 

The artifacts were curated by Cal Poly associate professor of architecture Jennifer Shields and Kennedy Library’s Director of Special Collections Jessica Holada. 

Shields and Holada began working on the project in 2018 with the intention of launching the exhibition in 2021. The in-person exhibition was delayed due to COVID-19, but the interactive virtual tour launched October 2021. The prolonged preparation period allowed Shields and Holada to invest more time into curating and refining the displays and supplemental material.

Morgan reached success by building collaborative relationships with other professionals in her field. This approach was different from most architects at the time, who often attempted to promote themselves as creative geniuses, according to Shields. 

“This suggests that designers of the built environment can work more collaboratively, with great empathy,” Shields said. “We hope that students and other visitors will absorb that message by the incredible artistic talent evident in Morgan’s drawings. Her work shows the range of opportunities for design, and the drawings show a seamless blend of art, architecture and engineering.”

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