Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ten Years Later

Where were you when the Al-Qaeda terrorists attacked the World Trade Center Towers on Sept 11, 2001? It was 10 years ago but your memory should be very fresh. I myself was in California. I was just back from my trip to South America the previous night and was sound asleep when my daughter telephoned from her work. “Dad, switch on your TV. See what’s happening in New York.” My son had just flown into New York the night before. Wow, I just couldn’t believe it. The Twin Towers were in flames and collapsing.

We observed its 10th Anniversary a few weeks ago. The paper reported Americans all across the land, prayed at churches and laid wreaths at fire stations and remembered, in their own way, a day that was impossible to forget.

Today I wish to talk about Minoru Yamasaki (1912-1986), who designed the WTC, the architect nicknamed Mr. Twin Tower. It was in the early 1960’s that I was working in downtown Manhattan, passing the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey when his project started as a big hole in the ground. The Twin Towers, for your info, were part of a seven building complex that covered a total of eight city blocks.

Who was this man, Yamasaki? Time Magazine featured him, so I bought a copy and devoured the article. He was a Japanese-American, born in Washington State. He was a rising star and I recall the IBM Seattle building was introduced as one of his latest works. It looked superb and graceful with modern technology and innovations. I first learned the word “minimalist” applied somewhere in the text. I took it as his efforts to simplify basic structural designs, and save on superfluous cost.

Yamasaki was chosen from among a dozen candidates. I was quite elated that race was not an issue in the selection of the winning architect. When one shows quality and works of excellence, one can ultimately win the job. There were cynical views and comments such as Yamasaki could be easily agreeable in accommodating developers’ demands.

I left New York in 1969, before the towers were completed. The North and South Towers were completed in 1972 and 1973 respectively. I had a chance to visit New York in the late 1980’s. I went to the Observation Deck, or the Top of World, located on the South Tower. As expected, the venue became the most active business center, accommodating the world financial and trading firms.

Yamasaki said: “The World Trade Center is a living symbol of men’s dedication to world peace – a representation of men’s belief in humanity, his need for individual dignity, his beliefs in cooperation of men, and through cooperation, his ability to find greatness". His buildings met with disaster, but I’m sure his vision will survive.


Minoru Yamasaki was one of the few Japanese Americans spared from evacuation during World War II because an East Coast architectural firm hired him.
Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles
designed by Minoru Yamasaki

Additional Info about Minoru Yamasaki
Towering Achievements
A Triumph of Talent

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