Obituary: Patricia Swan

Wed, 01/25/2012 - 3:45pm
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Patricia W. Swan, 87, retired architect, died after a brief illness surrounded by her family and friends on January 23, 2012. She was a resident of the StoneRidge Retirement Community in Mystic, Conn., and also lived for many years in Denver, Colo.

She was born on April 21, 1924, in Malden, Mass., to Mary (Flett) Swan and Dewey Swan. She grew up in Bronxville,N.Y. and Greenwich, Conn. She attended Antioch College for a year, then volunteered to serve in the Women’s Army Core (WAC) from 1944 to 46, where she served as a meteorologist. After the war she graduated from Columbia University, earning her architectural degree in 1951.

Her first and only job was with Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, an international architectural/engineering firm, where she worked for 35 years. She began her career in the New York office. In 1956 she became one of two women participating associates and in 1970 became an associate partner, opening a path in architecture for women. She headed a design studio at the firm which was organized as an independent office with a staff of 20 to 30 people. She and her team designed glass and steel high-rise and urban complexes for working, shopping and entertainment that she called “people places” in her efforts to revitalize downtown urban areas in the 1970s. A few of her noted projects included Toronto Dominion Square in Calgary, Alberta, and Denver Square in Denver, Colo.

She traveled for the firm throughout Canada, the United States, the Middle and Far easts. Pat was instrumental in developing and growing the Denver office of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill from 1978 until she retired in 1986. She was known and honored for her consistent efforts at mentoring young designers and architects.

After retirement Pat spent her summers on Block Island with family and friends. The family bought the old American Legion Hall in 1962. Pat redesigned the building as a residence for her sister, Sandy Swan, who then lived here year-round with her young children. Once Sandy’s family had grown and left the Island, Pat continued to keep the island connection alive for her nieces and their families, who played a large part in her summers there. The island house continues to be enjoyed by the family.

Pat devoted her time to the arts, as both an accomplished artist and an enthusiastic supporter of many others’ artistic efforts. She worked in pastels and oil paints. She loved Block Island and many of her pastels were of Block Island scenes. In Denver, Pat chaired the Park Hill Art Association Annual Sale. She chaired the Art Committee at Stoneridge, establishing monthly retrospective and group shows for the resident community.

Pat is survived by a brother, William Swan of Somers, N.Y., and a sister, Sandy Swan Gensemer of Block Island and Boston; five nieces: Lorie Sava of Stonington, Conn., Cyndi Lage of Springfield, Mass., Amy Swan of Mystic, Conn., Pam Goller of Franklin, Mass., and Christi Skardon of Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.; as well as eight grandnephews, two grandnieces and two great-grandnephews. She is also survived by her good friend Rose Mastrangelo.

A memorial service will be held at the Mystic Congregational Church, 43 East Main Street, in Mystic, Conn., at 11 a.m. on February 11. A celebration of her life will be held in late spring on Block Island. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Mary D. Fund, PO Box 303, Block Island RI 02807.