Born on December 1, 1912 in Seattle, Washington, Minoru Yamasaki is a Nisei. Born to John Tsunejiro Yamasaki, a purchasing agent and Hana Yamasaki, a pianist. Born in poverty, this apparent setback turned out to be just the opposite. Yamasaki worked hard and put himself through college, graduating from the University of Washington, determined to do something better with his life.

Minoru chose his profession when his uncle, Koken Ito, a Japanese architect, showed him plans for the United States Embassy in Tokyo while in college. Impressed by his uncle, he decided to become an architect.

Following his graduation from the University of Washington, Minoru went to New York University earning a master's degree. There he also was able to obtain a job at an architectural firm where he was know for his self-confidence. Not long after he went to Detroit and was hired as chief of design for Smith Hinchman and Grylls. In a relatively short time the 33-year-old Minoru had credentials from 2 of New York City's most famous firms, Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, designers of the Empire State Building, and Harrison, Fouilhoux and Abramovitz, designers of Rockefeller Center.

In 1949 Minoru formed his own firm with 2 collegues, George Hellmuth and Joseph Leinweber with offices in Detroit and St. Louis. However, his ambitions almost lead to his untimely death in 1954 when the stress from accepting too many projects gave him a near-fatal attack of ulcers. During his recovery, Minoru accepted an offer to travel to Japan from the United States State Department. There he was to review the location of the new U.S. embassy he was designing the Kobe area. He gained much more than that however, studying the Japanese tokonoma.

When he returned home, Minoru was so impressed with the idea of a tokonoma that he designed for his own living room. It also lead him to try to integrate the idea of beauty with architecture into his works. His designs that grew from these ideas eventually earned him the American Institute of Architects 1st Honor Award in 1959. During the past years he had designed a Lambert-St.Louis air terminal, completed in 1956. It set a new standard for airport design.

However, his own success did not extend to the firm. The 2 offices split with St. Louis becoming Hellmuth Obata Kassabum and in 1959, Minoru parted ways with Leinweber, forming his own firm. Yamasaki & Associates.

After the split, Yamasaki went on a tour of Europe and the Orient. Studying the Gothic and Indian architecture. This would lead to Yamasaki's second architectural period where he focused more on a romantic style of architecture instead of his then modern minimalism ideals.

During this time Minoru designed his first high-rise, the Michigan Consolidate Gas Company Building in Detroit. He designed the Arabic style Dhahran Air Terminal in Saudi Arabia which proved that he would not let his own heritage come between those of others.

However, in the 1970s he was commissioned for his most famous building. The New York and New Jersey Port Authority's World Trade Center. By now, his firm was well established with many rich Japanese and Arabs hiring him. However, his personal life was rather in a mess. In 1941 he married Teruko Hirashiki and then divorced her in 1961 marrying twice before their 1969 remarriage.

Minoru Yamasaki died of cancer on February 7, 1986, he was 73.

Personal Quotes:
"The purpose of architecture is to create an atmosphere in which man can live, work, and enjoy." — Minoru Yamasaki, quoted on the Minoru Yamasaki Associates, Inc. web site.

"There are a few very influential architects who sincerely believe that all buildings must be 'strong'. The word 'strong' in this context seems to connote 'powerful'—that is, each building should be a monument to the virility of our society. These architects look with derision upon attempts to build a friendly, more gentle kind of building. The basis for their belief is that our culture is derived primarily from Europe, and that most of the important traditional examples of European architecture are monumental, reflecting the need of the state, church , or the feudal families—the primary patrons of these buildings—to awe and impress the masses. This is incongruous today. Although it is inevitable for architects who admire these great monumental buildings of Europe to strive for the quality most evident in them— grandeur, the elements of mysticism and power, basic to cathedrals and palaces, are also incongruous today, because the buildings we build for our times are for a totally different purpose." —Minoru Yamasaki, from Architects on Architecture: New Directions in America, Paul Heyer

"I feel this way about it. World trade means world peace and consequently the World Trade Center buildings in New York ... had a bigger purpose than just to provide room for tenants. The World Trade Center is a living symbol of man's dedication to world peace ... beyond the compelling need to make this a monument to world peace, the World Trade Center should, because of its importance, become a representation of man's belief in humanity, his need for individual dignity, his beliefs in the cooperation of men, and through cooperation, his ability to find greatness." - Minoru Yamasaki, chief architect of the World Trade Center

Quotes About Yamasaki:
(Minoru Yamasaki (b. Seattle, December 1, 1912; d. February 7, 1986))

"Minoru Yamasaki was an American architect who achieved fame in the late 1950s with his sensuous, textile-like structures, and who later changed the Manhattan skyline with the two towers of the World Trade Center.

"...Yamasaki studied architecture at the University of Washington, graduating in 1934. It was during the Great Depression, a bad time for architects, and the young Yamasaki moved to New York, looking for work...

"Yamasaki used the hull-core structure again at his last pair of buildings. Completed in 1976, with Emery Roth as joint architect, the World Trade Center changed the New York skyline with two towers of great purity of form. The outer structure is steel, played straight until the towers reaches the ground, where the mullions merge in sinuous curves that once again remind one of the Gothic." — John Winter, in Randall J. Van Vunckt, ed. International Dictionary of Architects and Architecture : Volume 1, Architects, p1006 to p1008.

Other Works:
St. Louis Airport, at St. Louis, Missouri, 1951 to 1956.
U.S. Science Pavilion for the Seattle World Exposition (1962)
Irwin library at Butler University?, Butler, IA
U.S. Consulate General, Kobe, Japan
Conservatory of Music, Warner Concert Hall and King Building at Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH
McGregor Center at Wayne State University?, Detroit, MI?
Cowling Gymnasium, West Gymnasium, Olin Hall, Goodhue Hall and Watson Hall, Carleton College, Northfield, MN
Reynolds Metals Regional Sales Office, Detroit, MI
Planning for University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Lambert-St. Louis Air Terminal, St. Louis, MO? (1956)
Pruitt-Igoe Housing Project, St. Louis, MO (1955, demolished 1972-5?)
American Natural Resources Building, Detroit, MI
American Concrete Institute, at Detroit, Michigan, 1958.
Dhahran Air Terminal, Dhahran?, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency Head Office, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 1973 to 1982
Century Plaza Hotel, at Century City, Los Angeles, California, 1961 to 1966.
Founder's Hall, Shinji Shumeikai, Shiga? Prefecture, Japan
Congregation Beth El Temple (1968)
World Trade Center, New York, NY (1970-1977, destroyed by terrorist attack 9/11/2001)
Picasso Tower, Madrid, Spain
Performing Arts Center, at Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1973 to 1976.

Firm Contact Information:
Mr. William Ku, President
Minoru Yamasaki Associates
6841 North Rochester Road, Suite 300
Rochester Hills, Michigan 48306-4342
248-650-1300 voice, 248-650-1313 fax

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