Minoru Yamasaki, best known as the architect of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, created several outstanding modernist buildings. He strived to unite modernist and classical architectural ideas in formal and symbolic reduction. His work shows a preference for fine materials such as marble and repeated references to classical architecture such as gothic arches and columns. His designs are airy, reaching upwards and opening a relationship to the sky. The World Trade Center was not only the highest, but also the visually brightest, most minimal, and - by virtue of its duality - the most symbolic skyscraper in Manhattan. This duality was also an inspiration for French philosopher Jean Baudrillard:
“Why are there two towers at New York’s World Trade Center? All of Manhattan’s great buildings were always happy enough to confront each other in a competitive verticality, the result of which is an architectural panorama in the image of the capitalist system: as pyramidal jungle, all of the buildings attacking each other. ...This architectural symbolism is that of the monopoly; the two WTC towers, perfect parallel, a quarter-mile high on a square base, perfectly balanced and blind communicating vessels. The fact that there are two of them signifies the end of all competition, the end of all original reference. ... For the sign to be pure, it has to duplicate itself: it is the duplication of the sign that destroys its meaning. This is what Andy Warhol demonstrates also: the multiple replicas of Marilyn’s face are there to show at the same time the death of the original and the end of representation. ...There is a particular fascination in this reduplication. As high as they are, higher than all the others, the two towers signify nevertheless the end of verticality. They ignore the other buildings, they are not of the same race, they no longer challenge them, nor compare themselves to them, they look one into the other as into a mirror... What they project is the idea of the model that they are one for the other... At the same time as the rhetoric of verticality, the rhetoric of the mirror has disappeared..."
- Jean Baudrillard, Simulations, 1983
Yamasaki was born on December 1, 1912 in Seattle, Washington. He graduated from from the University of Washington, Seattle and became an instructor in architectural design at Columbia University. In 1945 he moved to Detroit. Yamasaki was a key proponent of New Formalism. He died in 1986.
Yamasakis buildings include the Pruitt-Igoe Housing project in St Louis, 1955; the Wayne State University McGregor Memorial Conference Centre, 1958, where a triangular motif is repeated throughout the building, featuring a large glass roofed atrium with diamond-shaped glass skylights; Detroit One Woodward Avenue (formerly Michigan Consolidated Gas Company offices), 1963; the Northwestern National Life Insurance Company Building, 1964; the Wayne State University DeRoy Auditorium, 1964, a pavilion that sits in the middle of a reflecting pool; the Reynolds aluminum building, Southfield, with a skylight made of a series of pyramids and glass walls sheathed in light deflecting aluminum grills; Temple Beth-El, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, 1973; The Bank of Oklahoma Tower in Tulsa featuring a bilevel lobby and arched windows; and the World Trade Center.
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