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Minoru Yamasaki

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Title: Minoru Yamasaki  
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Subject: The Montgomery (Chicago), Tulsa Performing Arts Center, Pacific Science Center, Temple Beth El (Detroit), University of Regina
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Minoru Yamasaki

Minoru Yamasaki
Born (1912-12-01)December 1, 1912
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Died February 7, 1986(1986-02-07) (aged 73)
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, U.S.
Nationality American
Alma mater University of Washington, New York University
Projects Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Rainier Tower, IBM Building, World Trade Center
Design Inspiration by Gothic architecture and usage of narrow vertical windows

Minoru Yamasaki (December 1, 1912 – February 7, 1986) was an American architect, best known for designing the World Trade Center in New York City and several other large-scale projects.[1] Yamasaki was one of the most prominent architects of the 20th century. He and fellow architect Edward Durell Stone are generally considered to be the two master practitioners of "New Formalism".[2]

Early life and education

Yamasaki was born in Seattle, Washington, a second-generation Japanese American, son of John Tsunejiro Yamasaki and Hana Yamasaki.[3] He grew up in Auburn, Washington and graduated from Garfield Senior High School in Seattle. He enrolled in the University of Washington program in architecture in 1929, and graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) in 1934.[4] During his college years, he was strongly encouraged by faculty member Lionel Pries. He earned money to pay for his tuition by working at an Alaskan salmon cannery.[5]

After moving to New York City in the 1930s, he enrolled at New York University for a master's degree in architecture and got a job with the architecture firm Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, designers of the Empire State Building. In 1945, Yamasaki moved to Detroit, where he was hired by Smith, Hinchman & Grylls.[6] The firm helped Yamasaki avoid internment as a Japanese-American during World War II, and he himself sheltered his parents in New York City.[7] Yamasaki left the firm in 1949, and started his own partnership.[6] One of the first projects he designed at his own firm was Ruhl's Bakery at 7 Mile Road and Monica Street in Detroit.[8] In 1964, Yamasaki received a D.F.A. from Bates College.

Yamasaki was first married in 1941 and had two other wives before marrying his first wife again in 1969. He died of stomach cancer in 1986.[9] His firm, Yamasaki & Associates, closed on December 31, 2009.[10]


His first internationally recognized design, the Pacific Science Center with its iconic arches, was constructed by the City of Seattle for the 1962 Seattle World's Fair.[3] His first significant project was the Pruitt–Igoe housing project in St. Louis, Missouri, 1955. Despite his love of Japanese traditional design, this was a stark, modernist concrete structure. The housing project experienced so many problems that it was demolished in 1972, less than twenty years after its completion. Its destruction is considered by some to be the beginning of postmodern architecture.[1]

In 1955, he also designed the "sleek" terminal at Lambert–St. Louis International Airport which led to his 1959 commission to design the Dhahran International Airport in Saudi Arabia. During this period, he created a number of office buildings which led to his innovative design of the 1,360 ft (410 m) towers of the World Trade Center in 1965, which began construction in 1966. The towers were finished within six years, in 1972. Many of his buildings feature superficial details inspired by the pointed arches of Gothic architecture, and make use of extremely narrow vertical windows. This narrow-windowed style arose from his own personal fear of heights.[11]

It was in 1978 that Yamasaki also designed the Federal Reserve Bank tower in Richmond, Virginia. The work was designed with a similar appearance as the World Trade Center complex, with its narrow windowing, and now stands at 394 ft (120 m).

Yamasaki was a member of the Pennsylvania Avenue Commission, created in 1961 to restore the grand avenue in Washington, D.C., but resigned after disagreements and disillusionment with the design by committee approach.[12]

After teaming up with Emery Roth and Sons on the design of the World Trade Center, they teamed up again on other projects including new defense buildings at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C.[13]

Yamasaki designed two notable synagogues during this period, North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe, Illinois in 1964 and Temple Beth El, in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, just north of Detroit in 1973. He also designed a number of buildings on the campus of Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota between 1958 and 1968.[14]



See also


  1. ^ a b Justin Davidson (August 27, 2011). "The Encyclopedia of 9/11: Yamasaki, Minoru: An architect whose legacy didn’t work out as he’d planned".  
  2. ^ "New Formalism". Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County. Retrieved March 2011. ; excerpting from HABS documentation: : "Los Angeles Music Center". Historic American Building Survey. 
  3. ^ a b Crowley, Walt (3 March 2003). "Yamasaki, Minoru (1912-1986), Seattle-born architect of New York's World Trade Center". Retrieved 2012-11-17. 
  4. ^ a b Milton Esterow (21 September 1962). "Architect Named for Trade Center".  
  5. ^ "Center Will Reflect Architectural Collaboration". The New York Times ( January 19, 1964. 
  6. ^ a b Huxtable, Ada Louise (November 25, 1962). "Pools, Domes, Yamasaki - Debate". The New York Times. 
  7. ^ "Minoru Yamasaki 1912-". Retrieved 2012-03-15. 
  8. ^ Interview with owner's daughter. Original architectural drawings donated to the University of Michigan.
  9. ^ "Minoru Yamasaki Biography (Architect) —". Retrieved 2012-03-15. 
  10. ^ John Gallagher (28 January 2010). "A Once Eminent Firm Meets a Bitter End".  
  11. ^ James, Glanz; Lipton, Eric (2003). City in the sky: the rise and fall of the World Trade Center. Macmillan. p. 109.  
  12. ^ Huxtable, Ada Louise (2 February 1964). "N.Y.C. Architectural Ups and Downs". The New York Times ( 
  13. ^ Robbins, William (26 March 1967). "2 Firms Are Welding Abilities to Plan World Trade Center". The New York Times ( Retrieved 2012-11-17. 
  14. ^ "Why is my Dorm so Ugly?". Carleton College. 24 February 2009. Retrieved 2012-11-17. 


  • Yamasaki, Minoru, A Life in Architecture, Weatherhill, NY 1979 ISBN 0-8348-0136-1
  • Nobel, Philip, Sixteen Acres: The rebuilding of the World Trade Center site, Granta, London 2005 ISBN 1-86207-713-4

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