Minoru Yamasaki, Mr. Consistency

Never accused of pushing the field of architecture to its limits, World Trade Center designer Minoru Yamasaki could at least be depended upon to create structures that were simultaneously boring and badass in a foreboding, Death Star sort of way.  Like a fleet of ships from the same navy, Yamasaki’s designs have always intrigued me because of their hypersimilarity.  This guy knew what he was going for and went for it over and over and over and over…

Remember how in Close Encounters of the Third Kind Richard Dreyfuss couldn’t stop making things into Wyoming’s Devil’s Tower – sculptures out of garbage cans, towers out of mashed potatoes, drawings, etc?  I’m convinced Yamasaki was having the same problem.  Don’t believe me?  Let’s take a little walk though his eerie portfolio:

Figure 1 - World Trade Center (formerly NYC)

Yamasaki’s most famous creations. Note the silver-sheen and vertical support-columned exterior with larger, elongated windows at the top floors.

Figure 2 - BOK Tower (Tulsa, OK)

Note the buffed white-sheen and vertical support-columned exterior with larger, elongated windows at the top floors.

Figure 3 - Torre Picasso (Madrid, Spain)

Note the buffed white-sheen and vertical support-columned exterior with sealed area toward the top floors where larger, elongated windows could have been featured.

Figure 4 - Century Plaza Towers (Los Angeles, CA)

More “twins.” Note the silver-sheen and vertical support-columned exterior with a sealed area toward the top floors where larger, elongated windows could have been featured.

Can you sense a trend developing?  Don’t worry, there’s more.

Figure 5 - M&T Plaza/Bank Center (Buffalo, NY)

Note the silver-sheen and vertical support-columned exterior with larger, elongated windows at the top floors.

Figure 6 - IBM Building (Seattle, WA)

Note the silver-sheen and vertical support-columned exterior with larger, elongated windows at the top floors.  Also, note the ornate arches at the bottom.  In what must have been the only way Yamasaki could differentiate between blueprints, ornate bottoms of varying design featured on many of his buildings.  For example:

Figure 7 - Ranier Tower (Seattle, WA)

Precarious at best at its base, but at least somewhat different from the others…note the silver-sheen and vertical support-columned exterior with a sealed area toward the top floors where larger, elongated windows could have been featured.

Figure 8 - Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond (Richmond, VA)

You guessed it – note the buffed white-sheen and vertical support-columned exterior with sealed area toward the top floors where larger, elongated windows could have been featured.

It’s amazing.  It’s uncanny.  It’s modernism taken to the absurd. Kubrick must have loved this guy.

For further reading, you might want to check out:

1963 Time magazine feature on Yamasaki and the World Trade Center design

If you can, you should get a hold of this documentary:

PBS NYC series – World Trade Center Edition

The Smoking Cupcake, January 2010

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