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Wayne State University Press

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Yamasaki in Detroit

A Search for Serenity

John Gallagher

Award Winner

Detroit, Architecture, Biography

Painted Turtle

Published: September 2015
ISBN: 9780814341193
Pages: 128 Size: 9 x 9
Published: September 2015
ISBN: 9780814341209

Although his best-known project was the World Trade Center in New York City, Japanese American architect Minoru Yamasaki (1912–1986) worked to create moments of surprise, serenity, and delight in distinctive buildings around the world. In his adopted home of Detroit, where he lived and worked for the last half of his life, Yamasaki produced many important designs that range from public buildings to offices and private residences. In Yamasaki in Detroit: A Search for Serenity, author John Gallagher presents both a biography of Yamasaki—or Yama as he was known—and an examination of his working practices, with an emphasis on the architect’s search for a style that would express his artistic goals.

Gallagher explores Yamasaki’s drive to craft tranquil spaces amid bustling cities while other modernists favored "glass box" designs. He connects Yamasaki’s design philosophy to tumultuous personal experiences, including the architect’s efforts to overcome poverty, racial discrimination, and his own inner demons. Yamasaki in Detroit surveys select projects spanning from the late 1940s to the end of Yamasaki's life, revealing the unique gardens, pools, plazas, skylight atriums, and other oases of respite in these buildings. Gallagher includes prominent works like the Michigan Consolidated Gas Building in downtown Detroit, Temple Beth-El in Bloomfield Township, and landmark buildings on the Wayne State University and College for Creative Studies campuses, as well as smaller medical clinics, office buildings, and private homes (including Yamasaki’s own residence).

Gallagher consults Yamasaki’s own autobiographical writings, architects who worked with Yamasaki in his firm, and photography from several historic archives to give a full picture of the architect’s work and motivations. Both knowledgeable fans of modernist architecture and general readers will enjoy Yamasaki in Detroit.
Wayne State University Press gratefully acknowledges the organizations that generously supported the publication of this book: Friends of Modern and Contemporary Art, Detroit Institute of Arts, Yamasaki, Inc. and The Office of the Vice President of Research (OVPR) of Wayne State University.

Published by: Painted Turtle

John Gallagher is a veteran journalist and author whose book Reimagining Detroit: Opportunities for Redefining an American City was named by the Huffington Post as among the best social and political books of 2010. His most recent book is Revolution Detroit: Strategies for Urban Reinvention. John was born in New York City and joined the Detroit Free Press in 1987 to cover urban and economic redevelopment efforts in Detroit and Michigan, a post he still holds. His other books include Great Architecture of Michigan and, as co-author, AIA Detroit: The American Institute of Architects Guide to Detroit Architecture. John and his wife, Sheu-Jane, live along Detroit’s east riverfront.

A great read about a great architectural legacy.

– Stephen Vogel, professor of architecture at University of Detroit Mercy

John Gallagher's insights provide the reader with a rich understanding of Yamasaki's creativity, all-consuming work style, and compassion for people that resulted in buildings of delight and serenity. The recent designation of the McGregor Memorial Conference Center as a National Historic Landmark is a fitting tribute to an architect who brought us beauty and balanced simplicity.

– Freda P. Giblin, director of inter-institutional initiatives, Office of the Vice President for Research at Wayne State University

John Gallagher captures, in images and text, the very essence of Minoru Yamasaki—a genius, a troubled soul, a great designer, but an architect often misunderstood during his all too short life.

– Robin Boyle, professor and chair of urban planning, Wayne State University

With his strong background as architecture and development writer for the Detroit Free Press, Gallagher captures the essence of Yamasaki’s illustrious career as a Detroit-based architect who designed notable buildings around the world.

– Brian Conway, State of Michigan Historic Preservation Officer

Yamasaki changed not only Detroit's skyline, but the world's. An architectural master deserves a fitting tribute such as this. Few writers can combine a knowledge and appreciation for architecture as well as John Gallagher.

– Dan Austin, author of Forgotten Landmarks of Detroit and Lost Detroit

With so little available scholarship on Minoru Yamasaki's important contributions to mid-century Modern design, Gallagher's Yamasaki in Detroit is a welcome introduction to the subject.

– Ruth E. Mills, Michigan Historical Review

  • 2015 Foreword Reviews INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards - Result: Bronze Winner in the Architecture category
  • 2016 Michigan Notable Book Awards - Result: 1 of 20 selected annually
  • 2016 Independent Publisher Book Awards - Result: Silver Medal in the Architecture Category
  • 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Award - Result: Finalist in the Regional Non-Fiction category
  • 2016 Eric Hoffer Book Awards - Result: First Runner-Up in the category of Art

Photos from the Book Launch on October 6, 2015:

Yamasaki in Detroit Book Launch