Associated with New Formalism and best known for designing the Twin Towers of New York's original World Trade Center and the Pruitt-Igoe housing project. He was one of the original members of the Pennsylvania Avenue Commission, but hated the design-by-committee approach and resigned.
He graduated from the University of Washington architectural program in 1934, where he was influenced by the famed Lionel Pries. He then earned an advanced degree in architecture from New York University after relocating to New York City. He was hired by Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, the architectural firm that designed the Empire State Building.
He designed the 33 buildings that comprised the Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis; Pruitt-Igoe quickly became infamous for its problems with crime and segregation and was torn down in the 1970s, having become an icon of the failure of public policy and urban renewal projects.
He grew up in Auburn, Washington, as the son of John Tsunejiro Yamasaki and Hana Yamasaki, first-generation Japanese immigrants. He married his first wife twice, once in 1941 and again in 1969. He married two other wives in between. He suffered from stomach cancer before passing away in 1986.
He and Edward Stone were hailed as the masters of New Formalism.