Case Study of a Master Architect: Minoru Yamasaki

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The purpose of the assignment is to choose an architect from the 20th century who inspires me and demonstrate a detailed knowledge and understanding of his work by describing the cultural/historical/political milieu.

20th Century Architecture

20th century of architecture was a period of new era of building. This was beginning of different architectural design look not based on previous building forms which broke all the rules that could be broken. 20th century architecture was divided into two periods: modernism (1850- 1960) and post-modernism (1960- present).


The modern movement in architecture began at the late 19th century until mid of 20th century. Modernism in 20th century brought many changes in technology and society (Anthony S. Denzer, n.d.). Modern architecture is described in minimal and fine use of material and ornament (wiseGeek n.d.).

Modern architecture works:

  • Organic Architecture(T. Clowers, 2012) ;


  • Art Nouveau - inspired by natural forms and structures(T. Clowers, 2012);


Figure 2 Casa Mila- Barcelona, Spain- Antoni Gandi- 1912

  • Art Deco- eclectic artistic style(T. Clowers, 2012);


Figure 3 Rockefeller Center- New York, NY- Raymond Hood- 1939

  • International style(T. Clowers, 2012);


Figure 4 The Seagram Building- New York, NY- Ludwing Mies van der Rohe- 1958

  • Mid- century modern(T. Clowers, 2012);


Figure 5 Palacio da Alvorada- Brazil- Oscar Niemeyer- 1958


Postmodernism is a late 20th century style which represents a rejection of strict rules set by modernist style. Postmodernist architecture is the simple and functional shapes of the modernist style which are replaced by diverse of aesthetics in the use of building techniques, forms, and stylistic references (T. Clowers, 2012).

Postmodern architecture works:


Figure 6 The EMP Museum- Seattle, Washington- Frank Gehry- 2000

Minoru Yamasaki


Master Architect Minoru Yamasaki was born on December, 1912, in Seattle, Washington(R. Sisson, C. Zacher, A. Cayton, 2006). He was the son of first- generation Japanese immigrants, John Tsunejiro and Hana Yamasaki(R.Binno Savage, n.d.).On his childhood Yamasaki was faced with poverty and discrimination in America(N. Measel, 2007).

At age 16 Yamasaki was unsure of what major to pursue, but that took a new turn when he visited his uncle, Koken Ito, he showed him the plans for the U.S. Embassy building in Tokyo. Yamasaki was impressed with these plans, which led him to pursue a degree at the University of Washington in 1932(N. Measel, 2007). To pay his tuition, he spent all summers working in Alaskan canneries (R.Binno Savage, n.d.).

After graduating from the University he enrolled at New York University for his masters degree(R.Binno Savage, n.d.). Yamasaki began practicing in New York with the firms responsible for the Empire State Building (R.Binno Savage, n.d.).

In 1945, Yamasaki worked as chief of design for the firm Smith Hinchman and Grylls in Detroit(R.Binno Savage, n.d.).

In 1955, he formed his own architecture firm, Yamasaki and Associates, in Tray, Michigan(N. Measel, 2007).

Yamasaki's life was interesting and full of surprises in his private life. Master architect married Teruko Hivashiki in 1941 before he was acclaimed as a chief architect(R.Binno Savage, n.d.). The couple had three children: Card, Taro, and Kim(R.Binno Savage, n.d.). Twenty years later, in 1961, he divorced Teruko and married Peggy Watty. After two years marriage he divorced her and married Japanese wife which he divorced too. In 1969 he remarried Teruko, and lived with her in house that Yamasaki designed(N. Measel, 2007). Yamasaki with his wife lived there together until his death from stomach cancer in 1986 at age 73(N. Measel, 2007).

Yamasaki's Design style

Throughout his career Yamasaki had many different styles, his signature style consisted of Gothic arches, strong vertical elements, and peaceful plazas and fountains(N. Measel, 2007).

American Architects design style associated with post- world War II modern architecture with his modern minimalist forms and graceful elements(R. Sisson, C. Zacher, A. Cayton, 2006).

In all Yamasaki's career he have been involved in over three hundreed buildings which his most famous building is the World Trade Center Towers in New York City(N. Measel, 2007).

Minoru Yamasaki buildings

One Woodward Avenue(R.Binno Savage, n.d.)

Location: Detroit, Michigan, US

Floors: 28

Opened: 1962

Height: 131 metres


IBM Building(R.Binno Savage, n.d.)

Location: Washington, US

Floors: 20

Opened: 1964

C:\Users\Arminas\Desktop\0023.jpgHeight: 84 metres


Rainier Tower (R.Binno Savage, n.d.)

Location: Washington, US

Floors: 31

Opened: 1977

Height: 157 metres


100 Washington Square(R.Binno Savage, n.d.)

Location: Washington, US

Floors: 22

Opened: 1981

Height: 104 metres


Torre Picasso(R.Binno Savage, n.d.)

Location: Madrid, Spain

Floors: 43

Opened: 1988

Height: 156 metres


World Trade Centre- The Twin Towers

Building Description(The Skyscraper Museum, n.d.)

Architects: Minoru Yamasaki Associates, Emery Roth and Sons;

Architect in charge: Minoru Yamasaki;

Location: World Trade Center, New York, NY, USA;

Owners: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey;

Height: The North Tower- 417 metres and The South Tower - 415 metres;

Style: International style;

Type: Office building;

Opened: 1972;

Destroyed: 2001;

The world Trade Center- Twin Towers- were the tallest building in the world from 1972- 1974(D. Pascucci, 2014). That time signature twin towC:\Users\Arminas\Desktop\downloaders were more than just buildings which attracted around 70,000 people every day(9/II Memorial, n.d.). They were proof of New York's belief in itself(D. Johnson, S. Ross, 2007).

Cultural, Historical and Political background

After World War II United States cities were not destroyed, so that cost many foreign business moved in to the United States from Worlds big cities as they were destroyed(T.L. Britton, 2003).

During that time, businesses grew very fast in United Sates which produced half of the worlds goods. Many of these businesses worked together and wanted to be located near each other. In that case, in 1946 the New York legislature created the World Trade Corporation which start thinking about new project to build a world trade center(T.L. Britton, 2003).

Many people liked The Worlds Trade Corporation project idea, but the project was too big to engage(T.L. Britton, 2003).

In 1959, a businessman David Rockefeller wanted to improve lower Monhattan by building the 60- story Chase Manhattan Bank building which did not create enough business(T.L. Britton, 2003).

Rockefeller formed a new business organization called the Downstown- Lower Manhattan Association with the idea to improve lower Manhattan by building a World Trade Center (T.L. Britton, 2003).

In 1961, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey defined a large project for the World Trade Center which Rockfeller gave it to Port Authority(T.L. Britton, 2003).

In 1962 Port Authority created the World Trade Center office which would plan, develop, construct and operate the World Trade Center(T.L. Britton, 2003).

C:\Users\Arminas\Desktop\534ee367c07a800b7b000001_ad-classics-world-trade-center-minoru-yamasaki-associates-emery-roth-sons_site_plan-530x497.pngThe Port Authority chose a chief architect Minoru Yamasaki of 40 architects who were considered to design the World Trade Center(T.L. Britton, 2003).Port Authority officials wanted a place where people coC:\Users\Arminas\Desktop\534ee385c07a800b7b000003_ad-classics-world-trade-center-minoru-yamasaki-associates-emery-roth-sons_world_trade_center_towers_12460a-530x678.jpguld work, as well as enjoy themselves in proportion to a small area of land- 3.6 million square meters of usable space of 6.4 hectares(The Bowery Boys, 2008).

The Twin Towers design approach

The original 6.4 hectares site was set- up of 14 small and irregular block buildings divided by narrow streets. By Yamasaki's consideration all these block buildings were not worth it to be saved on this site, in that case, there was a good opportunity to knock- gown the site and to create one large superblock (D. Pascucci, 2014).

On first stage of Yamasaki's design he considered to design a single 150- storey building, but later on he changed his mind that 1 massive building would be too big(G.H. Douglas,2004).

On second stage of Yamasaki's design he was thinking about possibility to design a series of lower towers- three or four buildings of 50 or 60 stories but later an architect C:\Users\Arminas\Desktop\534ee3fec07a80be1600000a_ad-classics-world-trade-center-minoru-yamasaki-associates-emery-roth-sons_3425137370_f3d66a67de_o-530x796.jpgwith mathematical mind rejected that idea because he does not wanted a site to look like a housing project(G.H. Douglas,2004).

Finally Yamasaki came up with the Twin Tower concept, as well as the basic layout for the rest of the complex(T. Harris, n.d.). Yamasaki believed that his design would allow him to maximize free space at ground level(T.L. Britton, 2003).

C:\Users\Arminas\Desktop\534ee3e6c07a808ed1000009_ad-classics-world-trade-center-minoru-yamasaki-associates-emery-roth-sons_world_trade_center_tower_one-1984.jpgThe towers were massive, at 110 storeys each and were different in heights: the North Tower, built in 1972- 417 metres, and the South Tower, finished one year later- 415 metres height(A view on cities, n.d.). Each weighed more than 250,000 tons, contained 99 elevators and had 21,800 windows(9/II Memorial, n.d.).

The building provided nearly 3 million square metres of office space for about 35,000 people and 430 companies(A view on cities, n.d.).

The final complex consisted of seven buildings, dominated by the twin towers(T. Harris, n.d.).

The Skyscrapers Design methods

C:\Users\Arminas\Desktop\imagesIn his towers design Yamasaki incorporated implied painted arches as a transition between the wide column spacing below(L. Kerr, n.d.). Each facade of the tower contained of 59 43- centimetres columns on a 1 meter grid with the narrow 55 centimetre windows between which was common feature in Yamasaki's design work(D. Pascucci, 2014).

Yamasaki believed that his Twin Towers design would be a place for communication, information and variety of businesses for people who could work as well as enjoy themselves(D. Pascucci, 2014).