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The UW Rome Center


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Located in the heart of Rome, Italy, the UW Rome Center is a multidisciplinary academic facility that provides students with the opportunity to study in an international Mecca of art, architecture, and design. It was founded in 1984 by Astra Zarina, a UW architecture professor, with the support of Dean Gordon Varey and Provost George Beckmann, as an outgrowth of the UW Architecture in Rome Program initiated by Zarina in 1970.

[Students at the Palazzo Pio]
  Students at the Palazzo Pio

Zarina--a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome, and the first woman architect to be awarded the prestigious Rome Prize Fellowship--was the Center's first director, and continues to be involved with the Center.

Today, the Center occupies three floors of the Palazzo Pio, a seventeenth century palace built on the foundations of the Theater of Pompey, inaugurated in 55 BCE. It is situated between Ponte Sisto and Piazza Navona and borders Campo de' Fiori, the most celebrated open air market in Rome.

It is a scholarly workplace built in every sense upon the historic foundations of ancient Rome. The Center comprises studio, classroom, and conference facilities, a publication and slide libraries, living accommodations for faculty and guests, and a seminar room overlooking the Campo de' Fiori. Opportunities for study include offerings in architecture, landscape architecture, classics, art and art history, Italian, comparative history of ideas, creative writing, visual mathematics, and an interdisciplinary program through the Office of Minority Affairs.

Why this city was selected for a place of international studies in architecture is summed up by Harold Kawaguchi, industrial design professional who taught at the Center during Autumn Quarter, 1995: "There are so many centuries of civilization here that it has to be a place of study for any student whose job it is to design for the ages. The significance of architecture to the culture here and its natural relationship to art in the form of sculpture and painting is…overwhelming," he writes.footnote 1

In past programs of study, for example, architecture students refined their drawing skills as they were assigned a rione (neighborhood) to study and sketch. They prepared detailed rione guides used by other students studying the city, and completed sketch problems--for example, designing a bench, a fountain, or handrail. Field trips took students to the north, to study the hilltowns and their role in the history of Italy's development--Siena, San Gimignano, Orvieto-- and to the south, to Amalfi, Paestum and Pompeii, rich in ruins of the Roman and Greek cultures.

Center co-director and architecture professor Trina Deines affirms that Rome is a particularly interesting site for an academic center because it has been continuously inhabited for over 2,000 years and the traces of all of its cultures are still evident in the city's fabric. Students who study the city "become aware of the rich connection of the past to the present," she notes.

UW art professor Jamie Walker also echoes that view. In Rome, "you can walk down the street and see and compare two thousand years of aesthetics," he notes. "You can have early Roman, Roman, early Christian, Renaissance, and Baroque art-- sometimes all in one building," he explains. "In a place like that, our students have the opportunity to learn about the longevity of art and the longevity of a culture that sustains art over time. It's quite a contrast to America, which focuses on the newness of everything."footnote 2

The UW is one of only a few state universities to have an educational facility in Rome. "For many of our students, study in Rome is very literally a dream come true," says Center co-director and classics professor Dan Harmon.


  1. "Palazzos, Piazzas, Pasta, and Pizzas: Beautiful Rome, Italy. The Eternal City," Harold Kawaguchi, Newsletter of the College of Architecture and Urban Planning, February 1996, p. 12.
  2. "When in Rome…Visit the UW," Nancy Joseph, Perspectives, Newsletter of the UW College of Arts and Sciences, 6(3), Summer 1995, p. 7.

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