Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Wim Swaan photograph collection
Date (inclusive): 1951-1995
60.0 linear feet
The Getty Research Institute
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
A comprehensive collection of approximately 48,000 photographic prints, transparencies, slides and negatives in black-and-white
and color by a self-taught photographer and practicing architect who traveled widely, documenting the art, architecture, and
landscape of the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Western United States. Also included are a small quantity
of correspondence with publishers, agents, colleagues and friends, sales accounts, a manuscript, research notes, and a copy
of his master's thesis.
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Language: Collection material is in
1927: Born Willem Albertus Swaan September 6 in Kokstad, South Africa.
1950: Bachelor of Architecture, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.
1950-1951: Travelled in Europe and Egypt. Worked for Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew in London on the University of Ibadan, Nigeria.
1952-1960: Returned to South Africa. Worked for Andrews and Niegeman in Cape Town. Moved to H. H. Le Roith and Partners, Johannesburg,
first as an employee, later as partner in charge of design. Projects: apartment buildings, schools, industrial and commercial
1958: Master of Architecture, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Thesis: "Low-cost housing: a survey of economic
and sub-economic housing for the lower-income groups with special reference to housing European families with children in
South Africa," written while Swaan worked as a full-time architect for Le Roith and Partners. Later attended the Yale School
of Organization and Management and the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.
1959-1960: Studied Zen Buddhism and researched Japanese architecture and landscape design at Chotokuin Zen Temple, Kyoto.
1960: Emigrated to London.
1961: Traveled extensively in Southeast Asia, Iran and the Middle East.
1963: Moved to the United States.
1963-1966: Joined Perkins and Will Architects, New York.
1966: Became a United States citizen.
1966-1968: Sabbatical in Europe.
1971-1972: Eighteen-month tour of Europe.
1972-1981: Partner at Perkins and Will.
1975-1981: Vice President at Perkins and Will.
1979: Elek Books Ltd. sold to Granada Publishing. Published only one other book after this point.
1981: Director of Health Facilities Planning in Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum's New York office. Oversaw the new Veterans
Administration Hospital, Manhattan, addition, and other large health facilities located throughout the United States.
1990: Received a special citation from the American Institute of Architects for distinguished achievement as a historian and
photographer of the art and architecture created by diverse cultures throughout the world.
1994: Retired as Director of Design at Architecture for Health, Science and Commerce, Tarrytown, NY.
1995: Died October 1 of pulmonary fibrosis.
Open for use by qualified researchers.
Wim Swaan photograph collection, 1951-1995, Research Library, The Getty Research Institute, Accession no. 96.P.21
Gift of the Willem A. Swaan Estate, received 1996. One binder of images of Latin American sites received in 1999. One box
of images of Latin American sites received in 2000.
Lynda Bunting processed the collection and created the finding aid in 1998. Alina Sinetos reprocessed portions of the collection
and revised the finding aid in 2015.
The following books were transferred to the library:
Thebes of the Pharaohs. London: Elek Books Limited, 1965.
Lost Cities of Asia: Ceylon, Pagan, Angkor. London: Elek Books Limited, 1966.
Tibet. London: Elek Books Limited, 1967.
Cities of Mughul India: Delhi, Agra, Fatehpur Sikri. London: Elek Books Limited, 1968.
Castles of Europe: From Charlemagne to the Renaissance. London: Elek Books Limited, 1970.
The Late Middle Ages. London: Elek Books Limited, 1977 (2 copies).
Art in the Hellenistic Age. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.
Brooke, Christopher and Roger Highfield.
Oxford & Cambridge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
Scope and Content of Collection
A comprehensive collection of photographs, approximately 34,450 black-and-white negatives, contact prints and enlargements
and approximately 13,450 color transparencies, slides and prints by a self-taught photographer and practicing architect who
traveled widely and published many large-format books devoted to the art and architecture of various cultures. Included are
a small quantity of correspondence with publishers, agents, colleagues and friends, sales statements, research notes, a manuscript,
and a copy of his master's thesis.
Most images, taken in situ between 1951-1995, reflect Swaan's interest in facades, architectural details and decoration. Main
concentrations include Gothic, Medieval, Baroque and Renaissance Europe, Islamic Spain and Morocco, Turkey, Egypt and Iran,
Ancient Egypt and Greece, Asia, including India, Pakistan, Tibet, Nepal, Japan, Cambodia and Sri Lanka, Pre-Columbian and
Colonial Latin America, and the landscape of the American West.
The collection is arranged in three series:
.Series I. Book projects, 1963-1995
Series II. Other photographs, 1951-1995
Series III. Papers, 1958-1995
Subjects - Corporate Bodies
University of Cambridge
University of Oxford
Subjects - Topics
Acropolis (Athens, Greece)
Decoration and ornament, Architectural
Decoration and ornament, Islamic
Extinct cities--Asia, Southeastern
Hundred Years War, 1339-1453
Landscape photography--West (U.S.)
Medici, House of
Subjects - Places
Copán Site (Honduras)
Japan--Social life and customs
Machu Picchu Site (Peru)
Mecca (Saudi Arabia)
San Agustín (Huila, Columbia)--Antiquities
South Africa--Pictorial works
Susa (Extinct city)--Antiquities
Thebes (Egypt : Extinct city)
Tikal Site (Guatamala)
Tiwanaku Site (Bolivia)
Genres and Forms of Material
Black-and-white prints (photographs)
Diffusion transfer prints
Gelatin silver prints