A New Exhibit in Italy: Astra Zarina in Civita (Astra Zarina a Civita)

(above photo: Iole Alessandrini) 

The Civita Institute, in collaboration with the Comune di Bagnoregio, Italy and the Museo Geologico e delle Frane, are opening an important new exhibit on the life and work of American/Italian architect Astra Zarina (1929-2008), focusing on Zarina’s decades of work, historic preservation and collaboration in revitalizing the internationally-renowned hill town of Civita di Bagnoregio, located north of Rome, Italy. This unique exhibit opens to the public the afternoon of August 25, 2019 (the 90th anniversary of Astra Zarina’s birth), at the Palazzo Alemanni, a city-owned museum building located on the central piazza of Civita di Bagnoregio.

The first woman to be awarded the prestigious Rome Prize in Architecture (American Academy in Rome, 1960), Zarina went on to establish the University of Washington’s Rome Program, the UW Italian Hill Towns Program and the UW Rome Center, located near Campo dei Fiori. She was also one of the founders of The Civita Institute, based in Seattle and Civita di Bagnoregio.

Beginning in the early 1960s, Astra Zarina began restoring ancient historic houses in Civita di Bagnoregio, after the decline of the town following the physical and economic destruction in the aftermath of World War II. She eventually collaborated with many families living in Civita to rebuild their homes. By carefully researching historic building patterns and the use of local materials, she successfully adapted many of Civita’s buildings to new uses and a new era. In doing so she helped establish a high standard of restoration that continues in work by others in Civita. Working with the Civita Institute and the World Monuments Fund, she helped in the efforts to list Civita on the World Monuments Watch list of endangered sites.  Importantly, Astra Zarina’s architectural work helped to weave together families and place, adding renewed vitality to the physical, cultural and social fabric of Civita.

The exhibit includes an extensive array of historical photographs, primarily drawn from The Civita Institute archives.  Additional images in the exhibit are courtesy of New York-based photographer Brian Stanton, Sam Bryan and the National Institute for Holocaust Documentation, and by Vanni Attili of Sapienza Universita’ di Roma. These images summarize Astra Zarina’s life history, with images of Civita citizens, along with the architectural restoration work in Civita that was completed by Zarina, including collaborations with her husband, American-born architect Anthony Costa Heywood. 

The Civita Institute thanks its donors and its Board of Directors for their significant contributions in making this exhibit possible, including the following Directors for their substantial volunteer efforts: Iole Alessandrini (exhibit design and installation), Clark Pickett (video content and timeline, with Jordan Hughes video editing/assembly), Sharon Mentyka (timeline editing and communications, with Cinzia Rocchi providing Italian translations), and Nancy Josephson (exhibit project manager).

The Civita Institute (incorporated as the Northwest Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in Italy, or NIAUSI) was co-founded by Astra Zarina in 1981.Through its educational programs, residencies and fellowships, the nonprofit organization focuses on promoting and inspiring design excellence through education and cultural exchange between the United States and Italy, with a particular focus on the study and research into Italian hill towns and their lessons of design, historic preservation and environmental sustainability. The organization is based in Seattle (USA) and at its historic facilities in Civita di Bagnoregio, Italy, where its library and archives are housed, all of which were donated in 2013 by the estate of Astra Zarina and by Anthony Costa Heywood to The Civita Institute.

Download this press release as a PDF here.

Northeast Chapter Announces 2018-19 Fellows

The Northeast Chapter of the Civita Institute is pleased to announce that the following artists, scholars and writers have been selected as new fellows of the Institute. Their proposals for work and study in Civita were selected in a juried process for their excellence.

Grimanesa Amoros: 
Workshops with the Artist
Lighting sculpture artist, Grimanesa Amoros, will host art workshops for Civitonici and will work with them to create an art video that captures the essence of their town and their lives. She also plans to project videos displaying her light sequences for the entire town to experience.
John Apruzzese: 
Obeída: The Morphing City
John will draw upon his extensive international affairs experience to write a novel set in an imagined Civita. His protagonist, Alïana, leads a humanitarian mission into the city of Obeída to assist its citizens in their massive exodus, only to discover that Obeída is morphing from within, both physically and linguistically, and a new citizenry, with its own origin and displacement stories, is emerging from an underground labyrinth.
Micaela Skoknic Dockendorff: 
The Lesson of Landscape

Attorney and historic preservationist, Micaela Skoknic, will explore how green infrastructure can give new life to historic towns in the Lazio region. Studying Civita's lessons of continuity and impermanence, she will attempt to affirm and expand preservation's contribution to community stability and sustainable development.
Claudia Sbrissa: 
The Poetics of Place

Artist Claudia Sbrissa will investigate both place and space, by referencing architectural forms and systems within the natural and built landscape of Civita di Bagnoregio. She plans to use locally sourced materials in her drawings, sculptures and site installations.
We wish to thank to our jury members for the time and energy they contributed to this endeavor.
Gwen Conners: Architect/Principal, 1100 Architect, New York; Doug Cooper: Architect/Professor, Department of Architecture, Carnegie Mellon, Pittsburgh, PA; Artist, represented by Hirschl & Adler, New York, NY; David Harvey: Architect/Founding Partner and Principal, Harvey Marshall Berling & Associates, New York, NY; Joey McGarvey: Editor, Milkweed Editions, Minneapolis, MN*; Alison B Snyder: Architect/Professor, Chair of the Department of Interior Design, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY

*Ms. McGarvey reviewed the two applications from fiction writers and emailed her thoughts to the jury.

Announcing our 2018 Fellows!

We are excited to announce our 2018 Fellows—Laura Bartunek, Taehyung Kim, Luann Bice and Jean Hicks. Read more about their proposed projects.

A huge thank you to our esteemed 2018 jury—S. Surface; Ellen Ziegler; Lesley Bain, FAIA; Jon Gentry, AIA; and Stephen Day, AIA.