Minoru Yamasaki, 73, who helped reshape the skyline of America as the designer of the shimmering 110-story towers of New York's World Trade Center, died Feb. 6 in Los Angeles. The Seattle-born architect had cancer.
With their elongated rectangular facades, the twin towers of the Trade Center -- probably the most prominent of Mr. Yamasaki's many works -- dominate the soaring skyline of lower Manhattan, one of America's best-known vistas.
In a long and productive career that brought him and his firms many commissions and much honor, Mr. Yamasaki also designed the Federal Reserve Bank in Richmond, the triangular, 44-story Century Plaza Towers in Los Angeles and the curvilinear Century Plaza Hotel there.
Among his most celebrated works was the St. Louis airport terminal, built in 1955 and highly regarded for its barrel-vaulted, poured concrete structures.
Sometimes known as a practitioner of neohistoricism, by virtue of such traits as the incorporation of Gothic motifs in essentially modern structures, Mr. Yamasaki dotted the nation with banks, office buildings and private residences.
The architect also aroused criticism and controversy. To admirers, the gigantic trade center stood for democracy at work. Some critics, however, found its huge size and the consistency of its steel-and-glass facade dehumanizing.
Another source of controversy stemmed from Mr. Yamasaki's work on a redevelopment plan and public housing in St. Louis, for which he was honored in the 1950s. In 1972 the Pruitt-Igoe housing project was demolished after becoming an unmanageable slum.
For social critics the failure of the high-rise project became symbolic. Some blamed the idea of public housing; others accepted the concept but faulted the execution.
Some later studies appeared to exculpate the design, but to point the finger at the city housing authority that had clustered too many troubled families too closely together without adequate social services.
Mr. Yamasaki was the son of Japanese immigrants. An architect uncle inspired his career choice.
In architecture, he once said, "you want to build hope and aspirations that will make people delighted and happy."
After summer work in an Alaskan salmon cannery, he received his architecture degree in 1934 from the University of Washington.
Fearing prospects would not be bright on the West Coast in the hard-pressed 1930s for a fledgling Japanese-American architect, he soon headed to New York. In the city where his most famous building would be erected, his first job was as a chinaware wrapper in an importing firm.
After volunteering his services to an architecture firm in 1935, he quickly won his first job in his chosen field. Meanwhile he pursued graduate studies and taught watercolor at New York University.
In 1949 he entered the partnership that eventually became Minoru Yamasaki and Associates. The firm's offices are in Troy, Mich., where Mr. Yamasaki lived.
A pivotal event in his life was a near fatal attack of ulcers in 1954, which he attributed to the pressures of work and to feelings of inferiority deriving from the problems faced by Japanese-Americans before and during World War II.
In a 1958 interview he said he realized the "danger of an architect getting involved in too many things . . . he's tempted to forget his real job is beauty."
Survivors include his wife Teruko, two sons, a daughter, a brother and eight grandchildren.