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Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Separated Material
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Wim Swaan photograph collection
    Date (inclusive): 1951-1995
    Number: 96.P.21
    Creator/Collector: Swaan, Wim
    Physical Description: 60 Linear Feet 150 boxes
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles 90049-1688
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/askref
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: 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.
    Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record  for this collection. Click here for the access policy .
    Language: Collection material is in English

    Biographical/Historical Note

    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 buildings.
    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.

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Wim Swaan photograph collection, 1951-1995, Research Library, The Getty Research Institute, Accession no. 96.P.21

    Acquisition Information

    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.

    Processing History

    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.

    Digitized Material

    861 images for several book projects in Series I. were digitized in 2015: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/96p21d054 

    Separated Material

    The following books were transferred to the library: Nims, C.F. Thebes of the Pharaohs . London: Elek Books Limited, 1965. Swaan, Wim. Lost Cities of Asia: Ceylon, Pagan, Angkor. London: Elek Books Limited, 1966. Tucci, Giuseppe. Tibet. London: Elek Books Limited, 1967. Hambly, Gavin. Cities of Mughul India: Delhi, Agra, Fatehpur Sikri . London: Elek Books Limited, 1968. Anderson, William. Castles of Europe: From Charlemagne to the Renaissance. London: Elek Books Limited, 1970. Swaan, Wim. The Late Middle Ages. London: Elek Books Limited, 1977 (2 copies). Pollitt, J.J. 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.

    Arrangement note

    The collection is arranged in three series: ; ; .Series I. Book projects, 1963-1995 Series II. Other photographs, 1951-1995 Series III. Papers, 1958-1995

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Corporate Bodies

    University of Cambridge
    University of Oxford

    Subjects - Topics

    Decoration and ornament, Architectural
    Medici, House of
    Mayas -- Antiquities
    Monasteries -- Europe
    Landscape photography -- West (U.S.)
    Extinct cities -- Mexico
    Extinct cities -- Asia, Southeastern
    Hundred Years War, 1339-1453
    Decoration and ornament, Islamic
    Architecture -- Pictorial works
    Architecture -- Europe
    Architecture -- Byzantine -- Istanbul
    Architecture -- Middle East
    Architecture -- Latin America
    Architecture, Medieval
    Architecture, Rococo
    Architecture -- Asia
    Acropolis (Athens, Greece)
    Architecture, Baroque
    Architecture, Gothic -- Europe
    Architecture, Hellenistic
    Art, Medieval
    Art, Hellenistic
    Art, Flemish
    Cathedrals -- Europe
    Castles -- Europe

    Subjects - Places

    Copán Site (Honduras)
    Tikal Site (Guatamala)
    Tiwanaku Site (Bolivia)
    Usfahan (Iran)
    Mogul Empire
    Mecca (Saudi Arabia)
    Persepolis (Iran) -- Antiquities
    Nepal -- Antiquities
    Thebes (Egypt : Extinct city)
    Susa (Extinct city) -- Antiquities
    South Africa -- Pictorial works
    San Agustín (Huila, Columbia) -- Antiquities
    Tibet (China) -- Antiquities
    Japan -- Social life and customs
    Istanbul (Turkey) -- Antiquities
    Machu Picchu Site (Peru)
    Europe -- Pictorial works
    Asia -- Antiquities

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Color transparencies
    Contact prints
    Photographs, Original
    Gelatin silver prints
    Diffusion transfer prints
    Color slides
    Black-and-white prints (photographs)


    Swaan, Wim