Inspired by his architect-uncle during his childhood days, Minoru Yamasaki learnt to think differently elaborating on his principle ideologies of “surprise, serenity and delight”. Being one of the celebrated architects of the 20th century, his works not only depict the modern architectural style, but also show ‘new formalism’ that primarily consists of modern-day architecture exhibiting classical elements.
“Architecture should be based on human experience.” – Minoru Yamasaki.
Fifteen notable projects by Yamasaki are:
1. Pruitt-Igoe Housing Project
This project at St. Louis, Missouri is depicted to be the triumph of modernist architecture amidst poverty and urban blight. The construction of the project was referred to as a response of urban evolution after the WWII. But the structure of the Pruitt-Igoe was never built as envisioned by Yamasaki and therefore, soon after its opening, the fall from grace of the project began. This project is important as it is symbolic; it highlighted the failures of modernist architecture disguised by poor housing policies of the federal government at that time.
2. World Trade Centre
The project held the title of Tallest Building in the world from 197-1974 before the devastation terrorist attack that resulted in the building to collapse. The company, Port Authority demanded an office space equivalent to about eleven football fields. Yamasaki’s design was an inspirational implementation of Le Corbuiser’s architectural ethics and Yamasaki’s Gothic modernist tendencies. Yamasaki’s fear of heights are visible in his design as he spaced windows between numerous columns so that thee tenants and office workers were not subjected to views of how high they actually were. The WTC also has Islamic architectural influences as rightly described by Yamasaki that the plaza felt like ‘Mecca’ to the people.
3. Rainier Tower
This 41-storey skyscraper in Seattle has a unique design, being built on top of an 11-storey pedestal base like structure, tapering at the base. Locals often call the building as ‘Beaver Building’ as it looks like a tree being felled by a beaver. The project also includes a twelve-storey hotel and an office space proposed by the University of Washington.
4. Pacific Science Center
This 6-acre, non-profit center’s original buildings in Seattle were the United States Science Pavilion designed by Yamasaki for the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle. The fountains located at the entrance of the center appeared in the movie, It Happened at the World’s Fair with Elvis Presley. The courtyard includes abstracted gothic arches with sculpted arches and concrete platforms ‘floating’ in in the classical space of the courtyard.
5. One Woodward Avenue
At the heart of Detroit’s Civic Center is Detroit’s most celebrated mid-century modern structure, called One Woodward Avenue. Yamasaki designed the skyscraper with the firm Smith, henchman and Grylls. Just like the other similar structures designed by Yamasaki, this building also incorporates a pre-cast concrete exterior, Gothic arches and sculptural gardens. This structure is called the fore-runner to his renowned World Trade Center in New York.
6. North Shore Congregation Israel
It is a Reform synagogue designed by modernist architect, Yamasaki as a series of arching ‘fan vaults’. He defined his design as a “confluence of daylight and solids”. It is a symbolic representation of post-war modernism in architecture depicting strength and integrity to stand independently. This synagogue was selected as one of the Illinois 200 Great Places by the American Institute of Architects Illinois.
7. BOK Tower
Formerly known as One Williams Center, BOK Tower is a skyscraper in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma. In any of the five “Plain States”, this 52-storey tower is the tallest building, very similar to the structure and construction of the WTC, also designed by Yamasaki. The plans were so similar that executives have even joked that the architects just halved the plans for this tower.
8. Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Detroit Branch Building
Listed on the National register of Historic Places in 2008, it was designed by Yamasaki who was the head designer of the firm, Smith, Hinchman and Grylls. The eight-storey glass-and-marble annex building was gutted later and renovated.
9. Louis Lambert International Airport, Main Terminal
This international airport serving St. Louis, Missouri, United States is one of the busiest and largest airports in Missouri. He designed an airport which was rightly called, “a landmark that really set the standard”, that captured the attention of jet travel during that era. Over time, the renovation of the airport diminished the simple yet visible elegance of Yamasaki’s Main Terminal.
10. IBM Building
This 20-storey office skyscraper in Seattle, Washington was designed by Yamasaki and constructed diagonally opposite to another notable work, the Rainier Tower. The exterior structure of the building consists of steel pipe columns and an exterior finish of precast concrete with its most distinguishable feature of twelve stone arches to a base in a Classical column. Just like the Rainier tower, this enormous structure is an attempt at solving the problem of how to make a skyscraper hit the streets and humanize the space around it.
11. Torre Picasso
Also known as Picasso Tower, this skyscraper was the tallest building in Madrid until 2007. It is next to the Pablo Picasso square and was part of the plan to build a large block of buildings showing modernist architecture. The skyscraper has 43 floors with a rectangular window-less two-storey base.
12. Horace Mann Corporate Headquarters
This building always makes to the list of walking tours of historic downtown Springfield because of its ties to the renowned architect, Minoru Yamasaki. It is a living example of neoformal style of architecture, that became popular in the 1960s. The typical features of the style are the buildings reflective glass, large plaza, imported marble and a building on a pedestal-like structure. Neoformalism was adopted as a way to bring life to the otherwise considered, dead modern style of architecture.
13. Century City Theme Towers
Unlike other twin building structures that are placed parallelly to each other, this 44-storey twin triangular towers are placed strategically so that they do not allow one to look into one building from another. One of the most unique features is the clear core incorporated in the plan of the office floors that elements the presence of columns in the three large, rectangular lofts. The corner office spaces are well suited for executives as they provide dual-exposure vistas.
14. 100 Washington Square
The three-building office campus, located in the scenic Gateway District of Minneapolis is virtually column-free and has floor-to-ceiling glass, making the space attractive to creative and dynamic users. The buildings provide unmatched views of the Mississippi River, Target Field, and Minneapolis’ scenic beauty.
15. One M&T Plaza
The 21-storey office tower which is home to M&T Bank in Erie County, was designed by Yamasaki with Duane Lyman Associates. The structural steel for the building was produced locally by Bethlehem Steel and features an expansive 75-by-225 foot exterior plaza.