Yamasaki Twin Towers drawings auction under legal cloud

John Gallagher Detroit Free Press 

An auction in Detroit Sunday of rare architectural drawings for the lost World Trade Center twin towers in New York has fallen under a legal cloud due to questions of who owns the documents created by famed architect Minoru Yamasaki.

Eric Teschke, a former worker at Yamasaki & Associates, took home a set of the World Trade Center design documents several years ago when the Yamasaki & Associates office was moving and disposing of many of its older papers.

Minoro Yamasaki  Free Press file photo

Minoro Yamasaki  Free Press file photo

DuMouchelles, the auction house in downtown Detroit, is scheduled to auction off that set of World Trade Center design documents on Sunday. The DuMouchelles website estimated that the documents, described in Lot 2022, could be worth $30,000 to $50,000.

But publicity about the auction has generated legal problems for Teschke. For one thing, Robert Szantner, head of Yamasaki RSA architects in Birmingham, the successor firm to the old Yamasaki firm that went out of business in 2010, said Friday the documents may technically belong to him since he bought the intellectual property of the old Yamasaki firm when it imploded due to financial problems, although he acknowledged that Teschke was probably given permission at the time to take them.

And yet another issue stems from a lawsuit filed years ago against the former Yamasaki firm. Attorneys represented creditors with claims against the old Yamasaki firm have already contacted Teschke demanding any proceeds from the auction.

“They sent me a court order,” Teschke said Friday. “They’re trying to come after the money for this thing. So I had to get lawyers now and we’re going to have to figure out what the heck we’re going to do.

“It’s really frustrating,” he said. “I’ve spent several years trying to generate interest in these things. I’ve flown all around the United States, to Christie’s and Sotheby’s, I’ve gone to Pawn Stars in Las Vegas, I’ve been to Chicago. And these guys just come in and say, ‘Alright, we want this money.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, great, thanks, let me do the legwork and then you guys can just take it off me.'”

Teschke said his set are the only copies in circulation available for purchase. Another set of the World Trade Center design documents created by the Yamasaki firm is kept at the State Archives in Lansing but is not for sale. It’s possible but not known at this time whether other copies are on file at the New York City Building Department or at other entities involved in the World Trade Center construction.

Minoru Yamasaki was a Japanese-American architect born in Seattle who came to Detroit in the mid-1940s to work for the old Smith, Hinchman & Grylls firm, now known as SmithGroupJJR. He soon started his own firm here and became world renown for his modernist designs, the most famous of which was the World Trade Center project. He died in 1986.

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