Arab modernization was something foreign to the Kingdom, primarily due to it’s uncompromising faith (Wahhabi) and inexplicable traditions of the Ibn Saud lineage. But when Ibn Saud gave birth to his second son, who would become the second King of Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom would take those first steps to the First World. Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was a reformer in the sense for the countries economy.
While the Kingdom started to reformat Mecca and Medina thru the Saudi BinLaden Group…….they wanted to witness other countries designers and economic advisers. A road was built from the countries largest province in the Makkah center to Mecca. This announcement from King Saud was announced during the Hajj in 1947. A remarkable breakthrough which gave a large audience to the world and also would entice a person of interest. Someone unknown to the Kingdom, but one who would rapidly become one of the Kingdom’s favorite architectural designers.
Minoru Yamasaki was born in Seattle, Washington in 1912. He would later graduate from the University of Washington with a Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) in 1934. Yamasaki was always find of creating designs when he wasn’t studying engineering, and decided to move to a city that saw the birth of one of the greatest modern structures the world has ever seen, the Empire State Building in New York City. Yamasaki enrolled at New York University for a master’s degree in architecture and got a job with the architecture firm Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, designers of the Empire State Building. In 1945.
His work and reputation for creating heightened structures became known to King Saud, who would invite him to the country by the early 1950's. Yamasaki was granted the contract to design the King Fahd Dhahran Air Terminal in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia in which the surprising and enigmatic Yamasaki accepted. By 1961 the project ended and gave Yamasaki the added reputation within the Saudi Kingdom. The architecture is a blending of traditional Islamic forms with modern technology, it was the perfect compliment to King Saud who saw the goals of the Kingdom for the future. By 1964 however, King Saud was forced from the throne and replaced by his brother, King Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
Yamasaki returned with re-known vigor, and also a surprising gift. NYC Port Authority would announce to the public that Minoru Yamasaki along with Emery Roth & Sons (Architects of numerous designs in NYC) would construct the World Trade center in Lower Manhattan. Yamasaki would later go on to say that his design would be the crushing defeat of his long embedded fear of heights, as he planned to design the buildings 80 stories tall. However the towers would have to be much taller, as the Port Authority’s requirement for 10,000,000 square feet of office space had to be met. Yamasaki’s design for the World Trade Center, unveiled to the public on January 18, 1964, called for a square plan approximately 208 feet (63 m) in dimension on each side.
The buildings were designed with narrow office windows 18 inches (46 cm) wide, which reflected Yamasaki’s fear of heights as well as his desire to make building occupants feel secure. In 1971 Yamasaki would design a structure which would be in the honor of the Saudi Kingdom. The design was called the sphere…..it was .to mimic the Grand Mosque of Mecca, Masjid al-Haram, in which The Sphere stood at the place of the Kaaba. This design would become of later importance to a unsuspecting figure unknown to Yamasaki or to the world, one who would take offense at its structure. At the base of the towers, Yamasaki used implied pointed arches — derived from the characteristically pointed arches of Islam. According to Oleg Grabar, the great American scholar of Islamic art and architecture, the dense filigree of complex geometries alludes to a higher spiritual reality in Islam, and the shimmering quality of Islamic patterning relates to the veil that wraps the Kaaba at Mecca. By 1973 both towers were fully completed.
1979…..With the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, a young Saudi began to use his late father’s construction company to build roads and dig trenches for the Mujahedeen . Osama Bin Laden a young, problematic upstart in the Bin Laden family had finally found his calling. Which was to become part of a cause that would give rise to the “religious sector” of Islam. Abdullah Azzam, Pakistani Imam, would be the single most important figure in the formulate years of the war for Bin Laden and would also incrementally manipulate Bin Laden’s mind to incorporate “defensive jihad” which was the fight outside the mind and to the unbelievers of the world. A war which saw no end til the rise of a single caliphate. Yamasaki, meanwhile, had been given rights to build the Federal Reserve Bank in Virginia. It was built with the WTC in mind, as its structure was 374 feet tall.
By 1986…Yamasaki had fallen ill, and passed away on February 6th from stomach cancer. Bin Laden however would begin looking at his greatest victory, the defeat of the u=disbelieving Soviet Union. It wasn’t until many years later that Osama Bin Laden, now a fully developed terrorist financier, took notice at the Saudi’s affront for having the U.S military based in the holiest site in all of Islam….but at a structure which was designed with the Saudi Kingdom’s approval. Bin Laden saw the World Trade centers as not only large financial monuments worthy of destruction but also as an absolute affront to Islam as a whole with Yamasaki’s designs which has the Islamic faith in mind.
On September 11th 2001……The WTC towers were attacked by hijacked airliners which impacted both the North and South Towers, By 10:30am….both towers had collapsed and were gone from the Lower Manhattan skyline. With Bin Laden in Afghanistan hiding, and Minoru Yamasaki deceased only one object would remain barely standing after the attacks took place….it was Yamasaki’s final design for the WTC,, the Sphere. It had visible damage, but it wasn’t totally destroyed from the debris impact. After its initial recovery, the sculpture was dismantled and sent to storage near John F. Kennedy International Airport It was then relocated many times before it was decided to have a final resting place.. On September 6, 2017, the Sphere was unveiled in its permanent home in Liberty Park, overlooking the World Trade Center site. A testament to Minoru Yamasaki’s greatest achievement which lasted 28 years but will forever be remembered as a symbol of a world now lost in human memory.