Though they were destroyed nearly 20 years ago, the Minoru Yamasaki-designed World Trade Center towers, 1 and 2 World Trade Centers, remain in clear memory for architects and non-architects alike. Their shared height and radical abstraction made them instant icons of the late modernist movement and a dual symbol of New York City’s renewed presence in the postindustrial global economy. The Twin Towers’ undeniable significance made the recent discovery of their original blueprints all the more worthy of attention, including the unusual trade of hands that took place in the last half-century. After the two towers were completed in 1973, the blueprints fell into the hands of Joseph Solomon, a former junior partner in Emery Roth & Sons, a New York-based architecture firm that partnered with Yamasaki on the project. Documenting elevations, sections, design details, and virtually all other elements of the site, the blueprints were serendipitously found in the trash in Denver, where Solomon brought them as he set up a new practice. Solomon passed away in 2017, leaving his daughter to clear out his garage, which, unbeknownst to her, included the valuable blueprints. Denver resident Jake Haas saw the drawings lying in front of the Solomon home and, quickly determined their worth, sold them to local pawnshop owner Angelo Arguello, who then sold them to James Cummins Bookseller, a Manhattan-based rare book dealer, thus bringing the blueprints back to where they were first drawn up. “I think you do get a sense of what a massive undertaking this was,” Brian Kalkbrenner, a seller with James Cummins, told the Wall Street Journal while marveling at the plans in their entirety, thought to be the only complete set in existence. The rare book dealer subsequently put them up for auction during the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair at the Park Avenue Armory held last weekend where they were shown to the public for the very first time and, according to Channel 9 News, were sold for an astounding $250,000. While the winner of the auction has not been disclosed, Haas expressed that he would like to eventually see them on display in a local museum for the public to remember the towers that once stood tall in the Financial District.
Posts tagged with "Minoru Yamasaki":
Studies are underway for the eventual construction of the Rainier Square Tower in Seattle, which will eschew a traditional concrete-and-rebar core in favor of a new steel plate system. The mixed-use Rainier Square development’s tower will be Seattle’s second tallest, and the building’s modular core will be a proof-of-concept in the earthquake-prone city. When AN first wrote about the NBBJ-designed and Wright Runstad & Company-developed Rainier Square Tower after its initial unveiling in 2015, comparisons were drawn between the building’s kinked shape and a high-heeled boot. The tower has grown from 795 feet tall to 850, but the distinctive massing and glassy facade have remained the same; the building’s slope is meant to preserve the view of the adjacent Rainier Tower, designed by Minoru Yamasaki. The $570 million Rainier Square Tower will forgo a typical high-rise core, which wraps a steel frame around a concrete core that has been reinforced with steel rebar, and will instead use a modular system of steel plates sandwiched with concrete. A boundary system is set up to shape the core, and the cross-tied plates are moved into place, and then filled onsite. While the construction of a full-scale core mock-up began in October, the general contractor, Lease Crutcher Lewis, has estimated that this alternate method would mean that the superstructure, set to begin work this August, would only take a year to complete. If these claims are true, that’s nearly nine months sooner than a comparable tower of this size. And, as the construction schedule is shortened, Wright Runstad is expected to save 2 percent of its original $370 million building costs. Structural engineer Ron Klemencic, CEO of Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA) is the system’s mastermind, and says that even with the increased construction speed and 58-story height, he’s confident that the tower will be able to withstand stress from wind sheering as well as seismic loads. The Rainier Square development will not only include the tower, but also a cubic glass-clad hotel wedged between Rainier Tower and Rainier Square Tower. Yamasaki’s concrete tower, affectionately named “The Beaver” by Seattle locals for the way the building balloons up from a narrow base akin to a chewed log, is the only original building on the block that will remain. If the engineering claims bear out and the new core system proves as easy to install as the contractors are expecting, Rainier Square Tower should be complete by April 2020.
Nearly eight years after closing shop, noted Detroit-based Yamasaki will be reborn with a new headquarters in the recently renovated Fisher Building. Founded in 1957 by Minoru Yamasaki, the firm survived after his death in 1986 until 2009. Now under the leadership of Robert Szantner, one of Yamasaki’s long-time employees, the firm will reopen with other former employees who were able to buy the firm's intellectual property out of receivership. Yamasaki is responsible for such iconic projects as the World Trade Center, Seattle’s Rainier Tower, and the Federal Reserve Bank. After graduating from New York University and working for Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, designers of the Empire State Building, Yamasaki moved to Detroit where he would eventually found his own firm. Throughout his time working in New York and Detroit, Yamasaki narrowly avoided being sent Japanese internment camps with the help of his employers, despite being born in Seattle. Once established, Yamasaki also became one of the few architects to grace the cover of TIME magazine. The new iteration of the firm hopes to build on the legacy of the famed architect and take part in Downtown Detroit’s recent construction uptick. Five of the 12-person firm formerly worked directly under Minoru Yamasaki in the original firm. “The marketplace has provided us with an opportunity to bring back the Yamasaki name to its roots,” said Szantner in a press release. “Detroit is about to grow in every way, including vertical. That fits into the experience of our professionals with urban projects of all types, so we want to play a role in the transformation of this city, as we have in so many projects here and around the world, while always being based in Southeast Michigan." The new Yamasaki headquarters will take up 3,000 square feet of the Joseph Nathaniel French and Albert Kahn-designed Fisher Building. Listed as a National Historic Landmark and included on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the Fisher Building recently underwent a multi-million-dollar redevelopment. “We are reinterpreting Yama’s values, that we learned from him,” explained Szantner, looking to the firm's future. “Simplicity in design, the use of sustainable materials, buildings that enhance social interaction – those are all qualities that buildings need now, with new applications.”
Pei Cobb Freed & Partners breaks ground on renovation and addition to Yamasaki's Century Plaza Hotel in L.A.
New York–based Pei Cobb Freed & Partners broke ground this month on a $2.5 billion development aimed at retrofitting and expanding the Minoru Yamasaki-designed Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles’s Century City business district. The project will convert the existing 16-story, 726-room hotel structure from 1966 into a luxury development with 394 high-end suites and 63 condominium residences. The elliptically-shaped hotel will be revamped by firms Gensler and Marmol Radziner, with the latter firm focusing on the historic restoration components of the project. The hotel has a rich history and was used as a stopover for visiting dignitaries during its heyday, including presidents Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan. The building was also the site of violently-quelled anti-Vietnam war protests in 1967. Pei Cobb Freed & Partners has designed a pair of 46-story, 600-foot tall Reuleaux triangle-shaped glass towers containing 290 luxury condominiums to flank the historic structure. Los Angeles—based architects Harley Ellis Devereaux are acting as Architect of Record for the residences contained within the glass-clad towers. The towers feature masonry-clad plinths at their base and are covered in repetitive, scalloped-edge balconies in deference to the Yamasaki-designed building’s distinctive facade. Rios Clementi Hale Studios (RCH Studios) is providing landscape design for the project; the firm aims to connect the new towers to the existing building via an elaborate series of landscaped shopping terraces. The shopping areas are designed to pull through the hotel’s interior from Avenue of the Stars, the major boulevard bounding the southern edge of the site. RCH Studios has laid the site out symmetrically around the center of the Yamasaki tower with wrap-around walkways and shaded areas connecting a proposed subway stop along the forthcoming Purple Line extension with the terraced areas at the feet of the towers. Plans for the redevelopment scheme were approved in 2013 as developers Next Century Associates—who originally wanted to demolish the 50-year old hotel—and preservationists clashed over the plans. The preservationists eventually won out when the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the hotel to its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places for that year, bringing a public spotlight to the project and causing the developers to change course. Construction for the project is expected to finish in 2019.
The storied history of Los Angeles’s Century Plaza Hotel, the Minoru Yamasaki–designed stopover for presidents Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan and site of violently-quelled anti-Vietnam war protests, is finally gaining steam as the hotel’s $2.5 billion redevelopment moves toward a late summer groundbreaking. Plans for the redevelopment were approved in 2013 after a lengthy and controversial back and forth between developers, who wanted to demolish the 50-year-old hotel and replace it with a pair of 46-story Pei Cobb Freed & Partners–designed condo towers, and preservationists who wanted to see the landmark building saved. Preservationists won out in 2009, after Washington, D.C.–based National Trust for Historic Preservation announced that the hotel had been placed on their list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places for that year. In response, the developer tapped Marmol Radziner to preserve and renovate the hotel as part of the overall redevelopment of the 5.74 acre site. Pei Cobb Freed & Partners’ designs for the pair of Reuleaux triangle-shaped glass towers utilizes the space between them and the historic building to create an expansive public shopping courtyard that continues through the hotel’s lobby, connecting to foot traffic along Century City’s main thoroughfare, Avenue of the Stars. That street will host a new subway station when the forthcoming extension the Purple Line is completed in 2026. The site will also feature shopping areas and landscaped terraces designed by Rios Clementi Hale Studios along the perpendicular Constellation Boulevard. The towers themselves are wrapped in scalloped, glass-clad balconies, echoing Yamasaki’s designs for the Plaza Hotel, and will contain a total of 290 luxury condominiums. The existing structure, preserved as it may be, is to be thoroughly gutted from within, with the total number of rooms available dropping from 726 in the current building to 394 much larger suites in the remade structure; 63 condominium residences are also being incorporated into the designs. The structure, to be listed as a City Historic-Cultural Monument, will feature 11,000 of the 94,000 square feet of overall retail and restaurant space in the development, while also retaining its existing 26,250 square foot ballroom. Gensler is acting as the executive architect for the project. An official construction timeline for the project has not been released.
The first-ever Los Angeles Facades + conference, organized by The Architect’s Newspaper and Enclos, held in the shadow of Bunker Hill’s glassy towers, showcased the city’s technical and creative talent while introducing participants to the building envelope field’s latest technologies and trends. Keynote speaker James Carpenter set a sophisticated tone, showing off richly complex work that explores both the “cinematic” and “volumetric qualities of light.” His World Trade Center 7 base, he pointed out, uses a subtle shift in plane to create an ethereal glow, while another project for Gucci in Tokyo uses prismatic light to recreate the qualities of a Japanese lantern. Other highlights included his louvered Israel Museum and his new exploration of optical aluminum, thin glasses, and computer etched glass. This look toward the future continued in the next panel, discussing “Net Zero and the Future Facade.” Panelist Russell Fortmeyer, from Arup, pointed out that by 2030 every building in California will have to be Net Zero, putting pressure on upcoming research. One way to achieve this, said fellow panelist Stephane Hoffman, of Morrison Hershfield, is through better use of computer performance models. Facades will also need to have the ability to change over time, noted Alex Korter of CO Architects. This ability to change was discussed in detail by the next presenter, Ilaria Mazzoleni, whose talk on “Biomimetic Principles for Innovative Design” stressed natural systems’ ability to be both beautiful and extremely functional. Learning from natural skins, and their regulation of heat, humidity, and communication will help facade manufacturers reap dividends. One example: natural phase change materials, which are already using natural elements to store heat and cold inside building envelopes. The Preservation and Performance Panel, while focused on historical structures, did not look backwards. Instead panelists discussed updating Modernist facades for present day conditions (including sustainability), while maintaining historic integrity. Historic properties like Minoru Yamasaki’s Century Plaza and William Pereira’s Metropolitan Water District building are being updated using sustainable materials and systems that bring the buildings into the 21st century. Afternoon keynote speaker Larry Scarpa, of Brooks + Scarpa, acknowledged the need for high tech consultants, but stressed his role in combining simplicity and beauty. His firm has employed unusual, basic materials like crushed soda cans, wood shipping crates, and metal mesh to create fascinating patterns of surface subtlety and diffuse light. On the other end of the spectrum, an excellent example of the future façade—Cornell’s Architecture hall by Morphosis— was discussed in the symposium’s technical panel. And an architect at Morphosis, Kerenza Harris, noted how on that project, and on their Emerson College in Los Angeles, computer technology allows them to keep every panel, every module, in exactly the right place. That means thousands of components; a feat of fabrication and organization that would never be possible without current technologies. Fellow panelist Bill Kreysler espoused the benefits of composite facades, which he said will one day revolutionize construction, without the burdens of studs, metal frames, or other commonplace fabrication components. The look toward revolutionary technology reached its pinnacle with fabricator Andreas Froech’s panel on “Site Deployed Collaborative Bots.” Some day, he argued, programmable machinery and automated tooling, along with composite materials, will replace laborers and traditional materials. He pointed to the building of automobiles, which is already largely automated. In order to move into this automated future, pointed out Walter P. Moore’s Sanjeev Tankha, in his discussion of engineering risk, data flow needs to become more seamless between programs like Rhino, Revit, and ultimately into live models. With all these systems of software, hardware, and knowledge in perfect position, and with standards like Net Zero enforced by local officials, the future of the façade looks to be exciting, and remarkably different. Some day, as Gerding Edlen’s Jill Sherman pointed out, Net Zero sustainably and effective performance modeling will be standard, not out of the ordinary. And futuristic facades will not be what participant Alvin Huang of Synthesis called “techno-fetish,” but smart and obligatory.
The National September 11 Memorial and Museum has just announced that it has been given Minoru Yamasaki’s final presentation model (he built 108 different prototypes) of the World Trade Center Tower Project. It has been donated by the American Architectural Foundation in Washington, D.C., where the model is currently on view until January 15. Built by precision mold-makers working in the Detroit automobile industry near Yamasaki’s office, the model’s three-dimensionality and realism is unprecedented for architectural models of the period, according to the museum. It stands over 7 feet tall on an 8-by-10-foot base (at a scale of 1:200) and contains replicas of 300 cars and 170 people. It was entirely restored by the foundation in 2003 and remains the best physical relic of the WTC, but will go into storage until the new museum opens its own exhibition facilities at ground zero.