Monday's New York Times had a small story with big implications, on the last-minute rescue of the archives of Minoru Yamasaki, architect of the World Trade Center.
The Michigan State Office of Historical Preservation had to send a truck the same day to beat the shredder. It's only the last chapter of the decline of a great architectural practice after the founder's death. (Link courtesy of Wikipedia.)
Yamasaki, eager to please clients, signed off on what in retrospect were some appalling compromises. Budget limits helped turn the St. Louis Pruitt-Igoe housing complex into an object lesson in social disorganization, and then there was the lack of fire suppression in the U.S. Military Personnel Records Center, also in St. Louis.
Mariana Mogilevich writes in Next American City Magazine that itSo there was an element of poetic justice in the near-destruction of the architect's own documents.
But it's surely unfair to think only of a creator's mistakes. Some of Yamasaki's buildings have become icons, like Princeton's Robertson Hall, where the program in arts and cultural policy studies with which I'm affiliated has its offices.
Minoru Yamasaki's papers may or may not have new information on many stories: Asian American history, corporate and academic patronage of design, urban planning, terrorism, professional ethics. The important thing, and a lesson to other organizations and states, is that they can now be studied in the context of a freshly appreciated movement, Michigan Modernism. Congratulations to all concerned.