Lecture Highlights Influential Modernist Architect

Architect Minoru Yamasaki rebelled against the strict minimalist doctrine of mid-twentieth century architecture, finding inspiration in cathedrals and temples to create Modern buildings designed to surprise and delight. Learn more at a lecture in Indianapolis on Thursday, June 1.

Irwin Library, Butler University
Architect Minoru Yamasaki designed Butler University's Irwin Library in 1963. (Photo: Brent Smith, Butler University)

Serenity and Delight

On June 1, Indiana Landmarks and our affinity group Indiana Modern welcome author and architectural historian Dale Gyure to the Toby Theater at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA), for his talk, “Surprise, Serenity, and Delight: The Humanist Architecture of Minoru Yamasaki.”

Gyure’s presentation will feature the work of Minoru Yamasaki (1912-1986), an architect who challenged the prevailing tenets of Modernist design during the ’50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s.

Although he is most widely remembered as the architect of the lost World Trade Center towers in New York, Yamasaki designed many other unique and noteworthy buildings, including the terminal for Lambert International Airport in St. Louis (1955); the U.S. Consulate in Kobe, Japan (1955); Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (1965); and Rainier Tower in Seattle, WA (1977).

Yamasaki worked in quintessential mid-century materials—concrete, glass, and steel—while employing delicate ornament, sculptural forms, and classical principles inspired by the cathedrals of Europe and temples of the Eastern world, practices that marked him as an agent of New Formalism.

He enjoyed an international reputation during his career and achieved local significance by designing Irwin Library for Butler University in 1963. Lauded for its artful use of concrete vaulting and its meticulously planned details, the library also shares a link to the legacy of modern architecture in Columbus, since the building was funded in part by contributions from the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation, a backer of Columbus’s Modernist oeuvre. Yamasaki’s firm also designed the ten-story 1st Source Tower (originally Standard Federal Plaza) in Fort Wayne between 1987-89, one of the structures that defines the city’s skyline.

Irwin Library, Butler University, historic

(Butler University Archives)

Born in Seattle to Japanese immigrants, Yamasaki received his formal training at the University of Washington and New York University. He began his design career in 1945 with Detroit-based firm Smith, Hinchman & Grylls before establishing his own architectural practice, Minoru Yamasaki and Associates, in the 1950s. Yamasaki appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1963, a rare honor for an architect. Some adherents of Modernism scorned Yamasaki for his rejection of minimalist doctrine, but many critics found beauty in the buildings he designed to induce “surprise, serenity, and delight” in their occupants.

Dr. Gyure, a native Hoosier, is an architecture professor at Detroit’s Lawrence Technological University in Detroit. Born in Hammond, he attended Ball State University and received his law degree from Indiana University in Bloomington. His lecture on June 1 will highlight Yamasaki’s buildings and the unique challenges involved in preserving these mid-century treasures. Dr. Gyure has previously published books on the works of twentieth-century architects and brings a vast knowledge of Modernism to his analysis of Yamasaki’s work. His latest book, Serenity and Delight: The Architecture of Minoru Yamasaki, is due out later this year from Yale University Press.

This is Indiana Modern’s tenth annual lecture, held in conjunction with the annual Back to the Future tour of Mid-Century Modern homes. Free and open to the public, the program begins at 6 p.m. with presentation of Central Indiana Preservation Awards. The evening is jointly supported by Angie’s List and the Cornelius O’Brien Lecture Series Concerning Historic Preservation.

Free tickets for the talk are available online at Eventbrite. And you can buy tickets to the Back to the Future tour of Mid-Century Modern homes in Terre Haute on June 3.

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