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Nat P. Kaplan Architectural Drawings,

Identifier: SWA-Kaplan Drawings

Scope and Content

The collection consists of architectural plans for over 170 projects located primarily in New Mexico and some in Colo.rado. Plans are mostly by Nat Kaplan for his construction firm, Sagebrush Construction Co. Drawings include floor plans, elevations, site plans, perspective drawings, and landscape drawings. Structures detailed are predominantly adobe residences, but also include mountain lodges, inns, law offices, and ranches. Examples of architecture reflect pueblo style, contemporary, and pitched roof. Project dates range from 1941-1990.


  • 1941-1990

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions


Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution.

Biographical Information

Nat P. Kaplan, designer/builder, was born in Brooklyn, New York on July 5,1912, to Russian immigrant parents. His father, a furniture maker and ship builder, passed on the love of handcraft to his son. During his sixteenth summer, Nat was given the opportunity to become a stonemason's apprentice at a summer resort in upstate New York, beginning his life-long love for natural materials.

Fluent in five languages, Kaplan's mother strongly influenced his decision to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Connecticut in the early 1930's. Befriended by a favorite professor, Kaplan gained extensive knowledge regarding the properties of cement and concrete. Completing his degree in 1934, he moved on to a teaching assistantship at Oklahoma State University.While assisting the head of the civil engineering department,he learned about adobe.Professor Kirkham was experimenting with"cut-backasphalt", a waste product of the oil refining industry. Kaplan learned to mix a heavy duty soap agent, the asphalt material, earth, and water to create an inexpensive, waterproof adobe block. Sometime later, Standard Oil Company created a similar product called "Bitudobe" which was used in Arizona and southern California.

Nat Kaplan discovered New Mexico adobe while on vacation in 1936. He fell in love with the pueblo style homes in Taos, finding the natural adobe bricks softer and more sculptural than the uniform, manufactured adobe of Oklahoma. The rich landscape rekindled his love of painting, as well as inspired his woodcarving and etchings. His art eventually won him invitations to shows in Santa Fe, Taos, and Albuquerque, with a prominent showing at the New Mexico Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe.

After returning from his war assignments in 1946,he briefly built cabins in Northern New Mexico. He then settled in Albuquerque and built his first adobe house for his family in the northwest valley, completing it in 1949.

Kaplan's love of local materials and their natural place in the environment influenced his design philosophy. Aligned with the artists of the Arts and Crafts movement during the early 1930s, he believed the natural world spoke directly through its simplicity. He wrote, ". . . simplicity makes great design sense, whether it is painting, sculpture or architecture. Anything good employs great simplicity and economy of effort." (McKay, p.15)

Kaplan continued to design and build adobe homes professionally into the early 1990s. He built nearly 150 adobe homes and commercial structures throughout the Southwest and became an award-winning adobe builder. He died in Albuquerque on August 27, 1996.

Source: McKay, Terry. "Nat Kaplan, The Early Years." The Adobe Journal Traditions Southwest,Issue 6, 1992, p.10-15.


6 drawers (1.65 lin. Ft.)


Architectural drawings of designer/builder, Nat Kaplan. Primarily contains plans for adobe residences in New Mexico.

Related Archival Material

Harry Kinney Papers Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico


Contact Information

  1. Center for Southwest Research
  2. Zimmerman Library
  3. University of New Mexico
  4. Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131-1466
  5. Phone: 505-277-6451
  6. Fax: 505-277-0530
  7. Email:
  8. URL:


Finding Aid of the Nat P. Kaplan Architectural Drawings, 1941-1990
Processed by E. Evans-Colburn
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Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • June 28, 2004: PUBLIC "-//University of New Mexico::Center for Southwest Research//TEXT (US::NmU::kaplan::Nat P. Kaplan Architectural Drawings)//EN" "nmu1kaplan.sgml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131