Architect and educator Astra Zarina wasn’t just the teacher of Tom Kundig, Ed Weinstein, and Steven Holl (who designed ‘T’ Space); she was also an advocator for public spaces, cohesive urbanity, and the communities that these attributes fostered. ‘T’ Space’s newest exhibit Rome and the Teacher, Astra Zarina celebrates Zarina’s life and teachings in the context of recognizing overlooked pedagogical figures, particularly women. A recent article by Metropolis Magazine describes this exhibit in detail and with it, Zarina’s own life story.
Astra Zarina was born in Latvia in 1929 but earned her B.Arch from the University of Washington and her M.Arch from MIT. In 1960, she became the first woman to receive the American Academy in Rome Fellowship for Architecture, after which she earned a Fulbright fellowship that allowed her to stay in Italy.
When she moved back to Washington to teach at UW, she established a studio program on Rome. This class and others throughout her career as an educator emphasized the city as a prime example of the social cohesion of ideal public spaces. Rome and the Teacher, Astra Zarina highlights her love for Rome in a series of photographs, maps, and theoretical texts.
Beyond its content, the exhibition space itself echoes Zarina’s interest in public space and urbanity. From the site’s mix of concrete, wood, and metal to the alternately public and private nature of the exhibition complex, ‘T’ Space deals physically with many of the same concepts that preoccupied Zarina’s work. That its architect was himself taught by Astra Zarina only serves to bind the exhibit and its subject even closer.