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Cass head of architecture Signy Svalastoga dies, aged 61

Signy web crop

Signy Svalastoga, head of the Sir John Cass School of Architecture has died, aged 61, after a short illness

Born in 1957, Svalastoga was educated in Norway and at the Architectural Association, London, before working in practices including Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA).

While at ZHA, Svalastoga was responsible for the design development of the Vitra Fire Station in Weil am Rhein, Germany, among the first of Hadid’s projects to be built.

Svalastoga was passionate about architecture education and taught in London architecture schools for 25 years.

She was head of architecture at the University of East London from 2004 to 2008 before moving to London Metropolitan University’s Sir John Cass School of Art.

Paying tribute, Takero Shimazaki, of Takero Shimazaki Architects, said Svalastoga was ’an incredibly open and supportive educator’. 

’She was always there for any guidance we needed in order for us to help and support our students achieve to their maximum capabilities. There was that trust that the units and the agendas were well supported by her and the school at all times.

’Her own teaching inspired the students to explore their subjective and observational agendas through sensitive and delicate, often hand-drawn, crafted techniques to tackle landscape and urban issues in architecture.

’Her tactile and grounded approach to architectural design and teaching will be greatly missed by the students and the colleagues.’

Svalastoga leaves behind her husband David, her children Rikard and Leah and the many colleagues, graduates, and students she has supported.


Deborah Saunt, director, DSDHA

She leaves behind her a huge legacy of enlightened architects and thinkers who have gone out to shape the world, made more aware of the widest possible interpretation of architecture’s role within the environment, both natural and man-made. Thanks to Signy’s unique approach to teaching an ability to sense space and to design with care, their connection with specificity of place and an appreciation of materiality and form was nurtured. I first met her when I was an External Examiner at London Met, when Robert Mull was beginning to work his magic in weaving together a wide range of teachers in the diploma school.

Her studio produced earth-bound work, on extraordinary sites, with a wealth of beautiful landscape models and drawings that drew on hidden histories. Her spatial thoughtfulness complimented the more building-focused culture found in other units. I later joined the faculty and enjoyed her collaborative spirit, and relished seeing the tactile, evocative work her students had made whenever we shared reviews. And, of course, I was also thankful for the furrow that Signy had cut, as one of the few women teachers in architecture at the time. Having her as an anchor at the school over the years was important as practitioners came and went, and she will be greatly missed by so many.






Readers' comments (4)

  • Signy was one of my tutors and she had the most courageous spirit and was an inspiration to all.

    She taught me how to be a strong and confident women in architecture and it is such a shame she has passed at this age.

    Condolences to her family and all who loved her.

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  • chris Dyson

    Signy will be greatly missed by the students past and present at the school she was so clearly committed to and fond of.

    I met her on several occasions and was always impressed with her approach to a practical, and emotionally intelligent philosophy of design - this shone through in the graduates some of whom we employed at my practice down the road in Fashion street Spitalfields.

    Our thoughts go out to her family foremost, friends and students at the Cass School of Architecture.

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  • Devasted to see news of Signy’s sudden and premature death. A significant loss to the architectural community, to architectural education and to all those who were honoured to call Signy a friend and colleague.

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  • We are all deeply saddened to hear the news about Signy. She was such an inspirational tutor, mentor and colleague, full of generosity, wisdom and humour. Signy always seemed to have time for everyone and balanced a stillness and quietness with intense passion and a sharp wit. Many at Levitt Bernstein have been tutored by her or have taught alongside her. Our thoughts and love go to her family.

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