NIAUSI Newsletter

Summer 2009

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Late summer days in Rome and Civita can be hot and sunny, summer nights warm and star-lit - and autumn still seems distant.

Here is an update on NIAUSI-related activity and events over the past few months.


2009 NIAUSI Fellows

NIAUSI's 2009 Fellowships started this summer with architect Betty Torrell's project "Hearth as Home", an in-depth architectural and cultural analysis of more than fifty historic hearths located in Civita di Bagnoregio. This study, with funding by NIAUSI, the Raynier Foundation and an American Institute of Architects/American Architectural Foundation Research Grant, was the first comprehensive documentation of this central feature of the historic houses and public cooking spaces of Civita.

Betty's field work was conducted in July and August 2009 and elicited the excitement and participation of Civita residents and property owners. The number and range of hearth types far surpassed the original scope of the study and included many Renaissance and medieval fire places, exterior ovens and cooking hearths. Betty will be presenting her work at the next NIAUSI Fellows event in 2010, with details to be announced.

NIAUSI Fellow Clair Enlow arrived in Civita in late August 2009 to commence her two-month long fellowship, focusing on Italian approaches to modern interventions in historic sites. Clair's research and writing in Italy are also being supported by the American Academy in Rome, where Clair will be staying for a week during her NIAUSI Fellowship period. An update on Clair's work will be included in the Fall 2009 Newsletter.

Architects Jennifer Milliron and Edward LaLonde are scheduled to conduct their joint NIAUSI Fellowship in Civita in April-May of 2010. Seattle-based artist Perri Lynch will be developing her site-specific installation in Civita in the Fall of 2010.

Felice's fireplace

Felice's fireplace. Photo by Betty Torrell


2010 Fellowship Program

The application process for the 2010 NIAUSI Fellowships for residencies in Italy will commence in October 2009, with completed application materials due by early December 2010. Jury selections will be complete by January 2010.

Details will be announced soon on the NIAUSI web site and in an email update to those in the NIAUSI email group.

If you would like to join our email group, subscribe now.

The path to Civita di Bagnoregio

The path to Civita di Bagnoregio. Photos by Jim Corey


Restoration Work Continues at the NIAUSI Facilities in Italy

Thanks to the financial support of NIAUSI members, repair and restoration work continues at the NIAUSI facilities in Civita. A new roof membrane, roof tile repairs and renovation, along with plumbing, plaster and paint renovations have been completed for the "Ruderino" residence (for an expanded description of the NIAUSI facilities, with photographs and information related to the Member "Stay" program, click here).

Plumbing and electrical repairs are scheduled for "Lo Studio" for this coming winter. Plaster and paint work are also scheduled to be completed by Summer 2010 for the "Sala Grande" - an expansive Renaissance-era room which will be used as the NIAUSI library and main gathering space.

Window repair

Views of Civita roofs & window repair. Photos by Stephen Day

Repair and refinishing of several of the chestnut window units in the various buildings was completed over the past several months.


Resilient Abruzzo

A Report from Iole Alessandrini

In May of this year, after participating in NIAUSI's work party in Civita (see below), NIAUSI Board member and 1996 NIAUSI Fellow Iole Alessandrini was able to re-visit her native region of Abruzzo, in central Italy. The signs of the 5.8 Richter scale earthquake that struck the region on April 6th of this year were still painfully evident. But the reconstruction effort is underway, in spite of several thousand recently recorded aftershocks, many of which registered more than 3.5 on the Richter scale.

Most of the towns that were severely damaged are completely evacuated. Among the towns that Iole was able to visit: Onna, Poggio Picenze, L'Aquila, Santo Stefano di Sessanio and Paganica.

For more on Iole's journey, including accompanying photographs, click here.

In addition, from September 17th through October 27th, 2009, Mithun Architects will host a photographic exhibition of Iole Alessandrini's light installations, which includes a selection of the Abruzzo photographs. We hope to see you at the reception.


L'Aquila, church of Santa Maria Paganica. Photo by Iole Alessandrini

Evidence of Absence:
Signs of Light, Time and Space

Sept. 17th through Oct. 27th (8am-5pm)

Opening reception Thursday, Sept. 17th 5-7pm
Mithun Architects, 1201 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98101, (206) 623-3344, Directions

Iole's web site is at


Grotesque Arabesque

Installation and Talk by NIAUSI Fellow Dan Corson

Dan Corson, a 2007 NIAUSI Fellow, has created a site-specific installation for Suyama Space in Seattle, inspired in part by Dan's Fellowship experiences in the caves, grottos and catacombs of Italy during his NIAUSI residency in Civita and by his visits to caves in the Yucatan.

Dan will also be presenting his work in a NIAUSI event in 2010, details to follow.

Grotesque Arabesque:
Installation by Dan Corson
- Flyer
Sept. 21st through Dec. 18th (M-F 9am-5pm)
Artist's Reception Friday, Sept. 18th 5-7pm
Artist's Talk Saturday, Sept. 19th (12 Noon)
Admission is free to the public.
Suyama Space, 2324 2nd Avenue, Seattle, WA 98121, (206) 256-0809, Directions

Dan's web site is at

Grotesque Arabesque

Grotesque Arabesque. Photo by Dan Corson


Summer Slide Shows in Civita

NIAUSI Board Member Lauris Bitners and NIAUSI Fellow Betty Torrell organized a series of very popular evening slide shows in Civita di Bagnoregio this past July and August. The first show was on the terrace at the "Studio" in the NIAUSI facilities, followed by popular demand with a show in Civita's central piazza.

Two other events followed, one in the Tony Heywood/NIAUSI cortile and one at the "Il Forno" restaurant in Civita. Over four warm nights under the stars, Civita residents and friends had the opportunity to view photographs taken by Betty and Lauris as students in Civita in 1976, 1979 and 1980 as part of the University of Washington's Italian Hilltowns Program, a program originated and conducted by Professor Astra Zarina, one of NIAUSI's founding members.

An expanded narrative of these events, with photos (and of the communal pizza party in the piazza that accompanied one of the events), will be included in the Fall 2009 NIAUSI Newsletter.

Summer Slide Shows in Civita.

Civita duomo and piazza at dusk. Photo by Jesse Nickerson


Welcome to New NIAUSI Board Members

We are delighted to welcome three new Directors to the NIAUSI Board: Ann Hirschi, Lauris Bitners and Erin Griffin Christie. These three Directors have widely varying backgrounds, in landscape architecture, photography, design and art history - and share a passion for Italy and cultural connections.

We are currently expanding the Board. If interested in discussing the possibility of joining us, please contact Stephen Day.

New board members in Civita.

Medieval portal. Photo by Jesse Nickerson


NIAUSI Board Work Party in Civita

For a week during the middle of May, while unseasonably warm weather embraced northern Lazio, several current and past NIAUSI Board members - Iole Alessandrini, Jim Corey, Stephen Day, Nancy Josephson, Marilyn Kennelly, Mark Klos, Clark Pickett, and John Ullman - met for a work party at the Civita Institute.

Several important activities were either started anew or continued during this visit, including important work on furthering the process of archiving the work of Astra Zarina and related files, photographs, drawings and correspondence. The group took the first steps towards sorting through the enormous array of materials that had been saved during Professor Zarina's 60 year career in architecture.

Working in teams, the group worked with Tony Heywood in carefully collating work from periods that included Astra's education and teaching, employment with Paul Hayden Kirk and Minoru Yamasaki, her fellowship at the American Academy in Rome, her Berlin housing competition and project, her architecture office in Rome and her founding of the UW Rome Program and Italian Hilltowns Program. The group also began the work of sorting through a selection of work produced by students of the UW Italian Studies programs.

Vegetables from Tony's garden.

Vegetables from Tony's garden. Photo by NIAUSI

NIAUSI Board Work Party in Civita

NIAUSI Board Work Party in Civita. Photo by NIAUSI

Throughout five days of this initial work, we commented on the consistently high quality of Professor Zarina's work; the ability of her drawings to capture the essential and avoid the superfluous; the letters and literature in Latvian, German, French, Italian, and English; the photos of her as a young immigrant in the Northwest, as a stunningly composed and stylish young architect in Seattle, Berlin, and Rome and as a great teacher and mentor.

Though the weather was hot and the days long, it wouldn't have been a proper work party without good food and wine! Sharing the joys of shopping, cooking, setting the table, and dining, we lingered long into the warm evenings under the arbor in Tony's garden "cortile".

Following are variations of a recipe for vegetable and barley soup that Tony, Iole, Clark and Jim prepared one night. It's a perfect way to blend summer vegetables with a hearty fall grain and memories of our beloved Civita! Preparing and enjoying this soup with fresh summer vegetables will bring forth tastes and sensations of late summer in Italy. For Tony's "Minestra di Farro e Verdura" recipe click here.

©2009 NIAUSI, The Skinner Building, 1326 Fifth Avenue, Suite 654, Seattle, WA 98101 |