ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
In lots of an American metropolis, when you've seen the skyline, you have seen the work of architect John Portman, who died Friday at age 93. Portman designed futuristic-wanting towers with hovering atriums. They have been usually constructed as efforts at city renewal - the Renaissance Middle in Detroit, the Peachtree Middle in Atlanta, the Bonaventure in Los Angeles. Portman described his constructing philosophy this manner.
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JOHN PORTMAN: Structure is about folks. Which means it is about life. I needed to grasp how we might take structure and add to the enhancement of life.
SIEGEL: For extra on John Portman, we're joined by Christopher Hawthorne. He is structure critic for the Los Angeles Occasions. Welcome to this system.
CHRISTOPHER HAWTHORNE: Thanks very a lot, Robert.
SIEGEL: You have been in a number of of Portman's buildings. Inform us; what does it appear like once you stroll inside?
HAWTHORNE: He was actually finest recognized for these actually dramatic atriums that you simply talked about on this lodge initiatives. So that you stroll in, and instantly above you, you see this gigantic quantity of open areas in some circumstances sufficiently big to carry the Empire State Constructing - acres of empty house above your head.
SIEGEL: Empty house indoors.
HAWTHORNE: Indoors - and his structure was actually related to these inside areas. On the surface, the buildings may very well be form of nondescript and even generic form of ciphers on the skyline - mirrored glass. After which all of the drama was ready for you inside.
SIEGEL: We simply heard him a second in the past talking of the goal of reaching the enhancement of life via structure. Do you assume that was an exaggerated hope looking back, or does he improve life once you enter the Bonaventure, say?
HAWTHORNE: He actually did at the very least by way of populism. So when he mentioned that structure was about folks, he actually was a populist architect. And he actually needed to create areas that may be locations in their very own proper. It was actually not the case that lodge interiors' atriums can be locations. However I grew up within the Bay Space, and I might go as a child to see the inside of the Hyatt Regency on the Embarcadero in San Francisco as form of a vacation spot simply to go inside that lodge. And I do not know if that was the case earlier than Portman began engaged on lodge structure within the 1960s.
SIEGEL: John Portman's heyday was I suppose within the '70s and the '80s, a time when many individuals have been leaving the nation's downtowns. How did his challenge match into that second?
HAWTHORNE: So that they have been usually funded - financed by redevelopment businesses, as was the case with the Bonaventure Resort in Los Angeles. Or they stuffed house that had been cleared by city renewal initiatives. And they also have been form of contradictory in that sense. They have been symbols of a return, at the very least a hoped-for return to the downtowns of America. However they have been produced at a second when there was a variety of nervousness, uncertainty in regards to the destiny of the American downtown.
SIEGEL: What in regards to the criticism that he was constructing successfully islands within the midst of cities that did not join very on to town exterior?
HAWTHORNE: I feel that is a good criticism. I feel it is actually looking back. It is arduous to say precisely what that meant in the intervening time within the '60s and '70s, however now wanting again, actually these have been buildings that have been totally aloof from their environment. One of many Hyatts that Portman designed described what you might discover there as indoor sightseeing. So the concept was that you might discover all of the sights of a metropolis with out having to step outdoor. However there was a form of optimism in that effort, in these designs.
Herbert Muschamp, the structure critic of The New York Occasions, described Portman's strategy as structure at completely happy hour, which I feel actually properly sums up the optimism of the second. So there was actually a variety of nervousness and wariness in regards to the place of those buildings in an city panorama. However when you have been inside, you have been meant to overlook all of that.
SIEGEL: Christopher Hawthorne of the Los Angeles Occasions, thanks for speaking with us right now.
HAWTHORNE: Thanks very a lot, Robert. Transcript offered by NPR, Copyright NPR.