I Beam

I Beam

Photographed by: Jillian Proscia


Masao Kinoshita (American, 1925 2003),
I-Beam, 1972
Corten steel
Location: Government Plaza

While at first glance the metal elements of Masao Kinoshita’s I-Beam might appear somewhat chaotic, upon further inspection the carefulness of its ordering emerges. Part of the difficulty in seeing the sculpture properly is due to its incomplete state today. When it was installed in 1972, the sculpture included 26 water jets (no longer functional today). These water jets together produced a veil of mist that enveloped the lower third of the sculpture, giving the illusion that its steel beam emerged from the water, as if from a cloud. The auditory and visual effects of the fountain were striking, especially at night when the composition of mist and beams was brilliantly lit. With the mist in mind, Kinoshita’s intention for the 40-ton structure becomes clearer. As the artist put it, in the brochure that accompanied its dedication in 1972, “the sculpture is meant to evoke a sense of emotional participation from a person’s eyes to his heart. Movement of the sun and seasonal changes will bring about a variety of shade and shadow patterns moving in what I call negative and positive forms. Snow and rain will also develop a texture amplified by the play of light on the surface.”

Kinoshita was born in California but raised in Japan from infancy until the age of 15 when his family moved back to the United States. During World War II Kinoshita was imprisoned in an internment camp for Japanese Americans in Arkansas; he was granted leave from the camp when he became an interpreter for the United States Army. He later studied architecture and urban design at Cornell and Harvard Universities. In 1960s and ’70s Kinoshita became a highly successful landscape architect; perhaps most notably, he contributed designs for the plaza around Minoru Yamasaki’s original World Trade Center towers in Manhattan. He split his time between the United States and Japan, practicing painting along with landscape architecture and urban design.

It was while working for Sasaki, Dawson & Demay (now Sasaki Associates) that Kinoshita came to work in Binghamton. Kinoshita’s sculpture was a component of the firm’s design for Government Plaza downtown. Commissioned as a focal point for the plaza I-Beam comprises three separate structures, each rising 40 feet above a granite base. Corten steel wide flanged beams were welded together to form fanlike sculptural pieces.

Researched by: Marissa Moroz

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