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Minoru Yamasaki Papers

 Collection
Identifier: UP002108

Scope and Content

The papers of Minoru Yamasaki include correspondence regarding projects, travel, communications with peers and associates, magazine exposure, invitations to speak, and his involvement with professional organizations. Early architectural drawings, speeches and writings, photographs, awards and doctoral degrees, scrapbooks detailing the progress of his career, and various publications are also included.

Materials in the collection reflect the deep admiration that Yamasaki received from his peers and the public, his respect for their opinions, and his concern that they understand the philosophy of his design. Many speeches in Series I reflect these philosophies. Material such as honorary degrees, professional certificates, invitations to the White House and the inauguration of Lyndon Baines Johnson, and numerous honorariums demonstrate the degree of professional recognition Yamasaki enjoyed. Correspondence in this series documents the importance of highly regarded architectural magazines, such as Architectural Record and Architectural Forum, in showcasing architects’ projects, and Yamasaki’s dedication of time to this effort. It also illuminates his relationships with others - friends as well as professionals - such as the sculptor Giacomo Manzu and WTC engineer Leslie Robertson. Significant awards are also included, such as the one-man exhibit given to him by the New York Architectural League in 1960, the first since Frank Lloyd Wright’s in 1930. Some of the materials mentioned may also be located in Series III. Yamasaki’s personal papers (Series II) contain correspondence with family and family friends, materials regarding the purchases of his homes, travel itineraries, early writings, and the services, tributes, and many condolences received by his family and company upon his death. There are many early photographs of his family and professional headshots, which have been sent to the Audiovisual Department along with early architectural renderings, and blueprints of his home on Lakecrest.

Important Subjects: American Institute of Architects Architectural design Architectural firms—United States. Architectural rendering. Architectural writing Architecture Architecture Awards Architecture--Societies, etc. Architecture—United States—20th century Japanese American Citizens’ League Michigan Society of Architects National Academy of Sciences (U.S.) National Council on the Arts National Endowment for the Arts. Nisei Twentieth-century architecture Wayne State University Yamasaki, Minoru, 1912-

Important Names: Architectural Forum Architectural Record Bertoia, Harry Birkerts, Gunnar Drexel, Arthur Ford, Walter Buhl, II Goldmark, Peter C. Gullen, George E., Jr. Hellmuth, George F. Huxtable, Ada Louise Korab, Balthazar Leinweber, J.W. Lindemann, Allen J. Manfredi, Nicholetti Manzu, Giacomo (1908-1991) Manzu, Inge Schabel Mariotti, Carlo Meadow Brook Art Gallery McElvenny, Ralph T. Neef, Arthur Odegaard, Charles E. Pillsbury, John S. Progressive Architecture Robertson, Leslie E. Saarinen, Eero (1910-1961) Skilling, John Spinks, John W. T. Taubman, Alfred Yamasaki, Taro Yee, Alfred A. Zarina, Astra
Series Description: Series I: Professional, 1935-1986 This series contains correspondence between Yamasaki and colleagues, students, magazine publishers, professional organizations, artists, and fans. Also included are awards, calendars, honorary degrees, licenses, materials on various projects, speeches and writings, printed materials about Yamasaki, and manuscripts. Original early architectural drawings, some blueprints for various projects, and his original design for fixed louvered blinds are located in the audiovisual department and described in the audiovisual inventory.

Series II: Personal, 1915-1986 This series contains material relating to Yamasaki’s early life, family, some vital records, and the obituaries, services, and guest information relating to his death. Original photographs relating to this series are located in the audiovisual department and described in the audiovisual inventory.

Series III: Audiovisual and Oversize Materials This series contains scrapbooks with photographs and clippings about his projects, headshots, souvenirs, artwork, promotional materials, awards, and doctoral robes.

Dates

  • 1915 - 2001
  • Majority of material found within 1955 - 1980

Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.

Access

Collection is open for research.

Use

Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials.

History

Minoru Yamasaki, (1912-1986), best known as the architect of the World Trade Center, New York City, was born into poverty as a second generation Japanese-American in Seattle, Washington. He put himself through the University of Washington as a student of architecture and in 1934, moved to New York City to escape the discrimination he experienced as a Nisei. At New York University, he received his master’s degree, then worked as a draftsman and designer for Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, Harrison and Fouilhoix, and Raymond Loewy Associates. He moved to Detroit in 1945 when he was offered the position of chief architectural designer for Smith, Hinchman, & Gryllis. In 1949, Yamasaki went into partnership with George Hellmuth and J.W. Leinweber but eventually established his own firm, Minoru Yamasaki and Associates. Yamasaki was married four times, first and lastly to Teruko, the mother of his three children, Carol, Taro, and Kim. He passed away from stomach cancer on February 6, 1986. His firm closed in December, 2009.

Yamasaki distinguished himself as one of the premier architects of the 20th century with his signature style - tall narrow windows, gothic inspired arches, and open ground level areas. “In the 1950’s, and early 1960’s, he railed against the glass cubes and boxes that were transforming the skyline of American cities and called instead for romantic, decorative buildings that would both soothe and delight the human spirit.” (New York Times, 1986 February 9) Some have attributed these revelatory changes to be a result of his near fatal attack of ulcers in 1954 brought on by overwork and his deep sensitivity to the racism he felt he experienced early in his life. He strove to provide the serenity found in nature by designing large open ground level areas for people working in crowded, urban environments and was concerned about the affect that large open windows had on workers’ fear of heights.

Minoru Yamasaki’s work in Michigan includes Temple Beth El, Michigan Consolidated Gas Company, and four buildings on the Wayne State University campus-The Education Building, McGregor Memorial Conference Center, The Prentis Building, and Helen DeRoy Auditorium. Other significant works, nationally and internationally, include Lambert-St. Louis Municipal Air Terminal (1956), U.S. Science Pavilion at the Seattle World’s Fair (1962), only two blocks from where he was born, Century Plaza complex, Los Angeles (1975), and the Civil Air Terminal in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. He was commissioned as design architect of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 1962, a project that was not completed until 1973.

Extent

38.25 Linear Feet ((32 MB, 16 OS), 19 microfilm reels, 45 architectural documents, 3 film reels)

Abstract

Minoru Yamasaki, (1912-1986), best known as the architect of the World Trade Center, New York City, was born into poverty as a second generation Japanese-American in Seattle, Washington. He put himself through the University of Washington and New York University to study architecture, worked in New York for several years, and eventually made his way to Detroit in 1945 where he established his home and his business. He eventually distinguished himself as one of the premier architects of the 20th century with his signature style - tall narrow windows, gothic inspired arches, and open ground level areas. His work in Michigan includes Temple Beth El, Michigan Consolidated Gas Company, and four buildings on the Wayne State University campus. Other works include Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (1956), U.S. Science Pavilion, Seattle World’s Fair (1962), Century Plaza Towers, Los Angeles (1975), and Eastern Province International Airport, Saudi Arabia (1985).

The papers of Minoru Yamasaki include correspondence regarding projects, travel, communications with peers and associates, magazine exposure, invitations to speak, and professional organizations. Early architectural drawings, speeches and writings, photographs, awards and doctoral degrees, scrapbooks detailing the progress of his career, and various publications are also included.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged into three series –

Series I (Boxes 1-27) is arranged alphabetically by subject or record type, and then chronologically by calendar year and month. Correspondents can be found under personal name, corporate title, or both.

Series II (Boxes 28-30) Personal materials are arranged chronologically, beginning with Yamasaki’s childhood and ending with materials regarding his death.

Series III (Boxes 31-48, Architectural Files, and Films). Oversize materials are arranged by size. Audiovisual material is arranged by format.

Acquisition

The Minoru Yamasaki Papers were donated to the Walter Reuther Library in May 2010 by the Yamasaki family.

Other Copies

Some collection content (1950-1986) is available on 19 rolls of microfilm: correspondence, calendars, speeches, and manuscripts. Arrangement is generally chronological, then alphabetical by subject or type of material.
Materials in Series 1 and 2 were scanned to PDF. Only the first page of copyright materials are available digitally, whereas non-copyright materials are available in full.

Related Materials

Walter P. Reuther Library: Virtual Motor City Collection

Archives of Michigan: Minoru Yamasaki and Associates Records

Transfers

Films and architectural records were transferred to the Reuther’s Audiovisual Department. Books notated or written by or about Minoru Yamasaki were transferred to the Reuther’s Library Department as the Yamasaki Library Collection. Inventories can be found at the end of this guide.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Anne Johns on October 15, 2010.
Title
Guide to the Minoru Yamasaki Papers
Status
Completed
Author
Processed by Anne Johns.
Date
2010-10-15
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
English

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

Contact:
5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA