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News March 2010

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11th Hour Rescue Effort to Save Archives of Minoru Yamasaki

March 18, 2010

On March 2, four representatives of the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) were allowed into the former office of Minoru Yamasaki in Troy to salvage as much archival material as they could in the hours before the shredding company arrived. Thanks to the concerted effort made by the SHPO, the Society of Architectural Historians, the Michigan History Foundation and other organizations, presentation drawings, original drawings and materials related to Yamasaki’s Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles (1966), as well as his personal library, are among the items now in the state’s care. The Archives of Michigan will seek grant money and donations for the cataloging and conservation of the collection, which includes original plans and renderings, handwritten notes, photographs, slides and books.

Yamasaki, who is best remembered as the architect of Towers 1 & 2 of the World Trade Center (1972–1973) passed away in 1986. The firm, Yamasaki Associates, Inc., continued until late last year when it filed for bankruptcy, triggering an auction of assets. While a significant amount of Yamasaki’s archives was heroically rescued, much had already been lost. A former longtime employee reported that three self-storage units worth of historic documents had been chucked in prior years as finances tightened. This episode is an all too familiar example of how often priceless documentary evidence of our built heritage is undervalued and mismanaged and how easily it can be lost forever.

Representative from the Archives of Michigan collecting Yamasaki materials
Courtesy of Michigan SHPO