Our History

The Civita Institute is the dba of its founding name 'The Northwest Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in Italy' (NIAUSI). The Institute is a member-supported nonprofit corporation established in 1981 by the late Professor Emerita Astra Zarina who led a community of academics from the University of Washington (UW) plus architects from leading firms in the Pacific Northwest, UW students, and other creative supporters to define its mission and formation as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.

The mission of the Civita Institute is to: inspire and foster an interdisciplinary understanding of the unique qualities of Italian hill towns that remain pertinent to our contemporary experience through the propmotion of historic preservation, education and scholalry research, artistic creation, cultural exchange, and professional explorations.

Originally, the Civita Institute was formed in 1981 to offer fellowships as learning experiences for the professional design community, outside of academia, as a corollary to the Italian Studies Programs begun ten years earlier by Professor Zarina for the University of Washington College of Architecture and Urban Planning. The Civita Institute has since evolved to include professional development through its Educational Programs, Fellowships, and Memberships that use its historic facilities in Civita di Bagnoregio, Italy, as a base for exploration of the central Italian hill towns. The Civita Institute also features unique, educational virtual events, in-person events, is a Provider of the American Institute of Architects Continuing Education System, manages an extensive archive of books, drawings, and photographs, and publishes seasonal newsletters.

Key foundational documents for The Civita Institute that began as a nonprofit organization in 1981, and the Civita Institute's Italian properties ownership and development agreements that were begun in 2007 and completed in 2013, have been combined into a single document that can be downloaded here. The contents of this combined document include:   

1) NIAUSI Articles of Incorporation, amended, March 5, 1982; p.1

2) NIAUSI exhibits to IRS request for tax-exempt status, April 4, 1982; p.13
    Exhibit 1, Astra Zarina announcing formation of NIAUSI, Aug 5, 1981; p.14
    Exhibit 2, John Ullman announcing first fundraiser, Nov 1, 1981; p.17
    Exhibit 2b, NIAUSI Board announcing 3 goals, Nov 22, 1981; p.18
    Exhibit 3, list of studies related to cultural exchange, Mar 27, 1982; p.19
    Exhibit 4, Dean Myer Wolfe supporting NIAUSI, Nov 23, 1981; p.33
    Exhibit 5a-5d, UW Italian Studies fundraising examples, 1980-1982; p.34 
    Exhibit 6a, 2nd Annual Study Seminar in Civita, July 20-25, 1979; p.43 
    Exhibit 6b, 3rd Annual Study Seminar in Civita, July 22-25, 1980; p. 45
    Exhibit 6c, UW CAUP Streets as Public Property, May 21-22, 1982; p.50
    Exhibit 7, NIAUSI Italian Hilltowns Tour, August 10-22, 1982; p.52
    Exhibit 8a, UW program AIR I & II, Oct 3, 1982 - Mar 20, 1983; p.66
    Exhibit 8b, UW program for IHS, July 3 - Aug 21, 1982; p.86
    Exhibit 9, NIAUSI Directors, Officers, committees, Apr 4, 1982; p.104

3) Lease and Development Agreement for formation of The Civita Institute, June 19, 2007; p.108

4) Amendment #1 to Lease and Development Agreement defining Gift of Property Contents, March 6, 2010

5) Civita Properties Use Agreement defining use and purpose of "Shared Areas", February 7, 2013; p.176

6.1) Italian version Recorded Deed of Transfer by Tony Costa Heywood to NIAUSI, February 7, 2013; p.191

6.2) English version Recorded Deed of Transfer by Tony Costa Heywood to NIAUSI, February 7, 2013; p.196

We would be honored to have you join us as a Member: participate in our Educational Programs, apply for a Fellowship, or enjoy a unique, member-stay experience within our historic buildings in Civita di Bagnoregio, Italy. 

Located in Alto Lazio, in the ancient hill town of Civita di Bagnoregio, the facilities of The Civita Institute were conceived as a research center and donated to NIAUSI/ The Civita Institute for that purpose by the esteemed Professor Emerita Astra Zarina, a 2023 recipient of the Distinguished Faculty Award for Lifetime Achievement by the UW College of Built Environments, and her husband Anthony Costa Heywood, architect, who continues to reside at The Civita Institute.

The Civita Institute is managed by an all-volunteer Board of Directors that remains energized by the sincere gratitude of its community - its members, fellows, and educational program participants. The mission of The Civita Institute continues to inspire and educate Americans through exploration of the unique qualities of Italian hill towns.

More about the life and work of Astra Zarina can be found at the following links: 

English Obituary

Necrologio Italiano