John Portman, the architect and developer who revolutionized lodge designs with hovering futuristic atriums, constructed business towers that revitalized the downtowns of decaying postwar U.S. cities and remodeled Asian skylines from Shanghai to Mumbai, died Friday in Atlanta. He was 93.
Portman’s household introduced his loss of life. No trigger was given.
One in every of the world’s finest-recognized and most influential architects, Portman, over a half-century, redefined city landscapes in the United States. He constructed the Peachtree Heart in Atlanta, the Embarcadero Heart in San Francisco, the Renaissance Heart in Detroit and scores of lodge, workplace and retail complexes in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Fort Price, San Diego and different cities.
His buildings usually evoked oohs and aahs from the public, however weren't all the time a success with critics, who known as them concrete islands, self-contained cities inside cities — serving their patrons but insular, even forbidding to outsiders. However by combining architectural skills with the savvy of an actual property entrepreneur, Portman was vastly profitable and a rarity amongst contemporaries: each an artist and a tricky businessman.
In the 1960s and ’70s, his signature lodges — skyscrapers with escarpment atriums, cantilevered balconies overlooking interiors sufficiently big to comprise the Statue of Liberty, whooshing glass elevators, waterfalls, hanging gardens and revolving rooftop eating places — supplied thrilling antidotes to the customary lot of dreary lodge lobbies, claustrophobic field elevators and shotgun corridors lined with cells for the inmates.
An Atlanta maverick who defied architects’ ethics codes by plunging into actual property improvement, Portman, who had no cash to start out with, made and misplaced thousands and thousands of co-financing a lot of his personal initiatives. From the 1980s on he designed and constructed lodges, retail marts and workplace towers in China, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and India — and extra complexes in Europe, the Center East and the United States.
As they proliferated in the United States, Portman’s atrium lodges, many constructed for the Hyatt Corp., have been broadly imitated by different architects who sought to capitalize on the dizzying exhilaration (some known as it terror) of patrons hovering 50 tales in a Buck Rogers glass capsule, or eating beneath the stars as the metropolis moved in a circle with the galactic night time. You didn't even must hire a room.
There have been setbacks for the atrium idea. The 40-story Hyatt Regency Kansas Metropolis, designed by three native architects with an atrium imitating Portman’s, was the scene of a collapse of two aerial walkways in 1981 throughout a dance competitors in the foyer. The collapse killed 114 individuals and injured 216 others in considered one of the nation’s deadliest structural failures.
By the late 1980s, with atriums in the Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles, the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco, the Marriott Marquis in New York and dozens of others, the design was so widespread that some motels had what handed for atriums. Vacationers have been now not impressed, and critics stated Portman had repeated himself too usually.
However his atriums have been laced into in style tradition. In the 1977 movie “Excessive Nervousness,” Mel Brooks, as an acrophobic psychiatrist dealing with a sheer drop at the San Francisco Hyatt, inches to his room clinging to the partitions. And in a 1993 movie, “In the Line of Fireplace,” Clint Eastwood’s Secret Service agent outlasts a would-be presidential murderer in a glass elevator at the Los Angeles Bonaventure.
As federal assist for city renewal light in the 1970s, Portman’s business towers have been hailed as downtown saviors, bringing again vacationers and suburban customers, renewing economies and crumbling landscapes. However some failed, and a rising refrain of critics derided his buildings as islands of exclusion, paradoxically minimize off from the downtowns they have been supposed to rescue.
His Renaissance Heart in Detroit was a obvious instance. A cluster of 4 39-story workplace buildings and a 73-story lodge with retailers, eating places and theaters was inbuilt the 1970s to save lots of a depressed metropolis. However its gleaming towers on the Detroit River have been as distant as a cloud-ringed Disneyland fort. Workplace employees, guests and suburban customers might drive out and in with out ever setting foot downtown.
Portman’s Marriott Marquis Lodge, which opened in a nonetheless-seedy Occasions Sq. in New York in 1985 with a 45-story atrium and an eighth-flooring foyer, was “a chilly, grim place,” wrote Paul Goldberger, then The New York Occasions’ structure critic. “Like a lot of Mr. Portman’s structure, the lodge is turned nearly fully inward; the architect appears desirous about city exercise solely insofar as it may be canned and packaged inside its partitions. To the remainder of New York, this constructing turns a harsh concrete wall.”
Portman scoffed, arguing that open areas in congested cities relieved anxieties. Influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, who harmonized buildings with individuals and environment, Portman stated his personal buildings, particularly lodges, have been oases inside cities, designed to boost the experiences of the individuals who used them.
“Anybody can construct a constructing and put rooms in it,” he informed The Occasions in 2011. “However we must always put human beings at the head of our thought processes. You need to hopefully spark their enthusiasm. Like using in a glass elevator: Everybody talks on a glass elevator. You get on a closed-in elevator, everybody seems down at their footwear. A glass elevator lets individuals’s spirits broaden. Structure ought to be a symphony.”
Colleagues stated Portman, like his buildings, was proudly self-contained. Tall, mushy-spoken, with a delicate smile and wavy hair, he labored incessantly, was not given to small speak and by no means shed his slight air of Outdated South formality.
John Calvin Portman Jr. was born in Walhalla, South Carolina, on Dec. four, 1924, to John Calvin and Edna Rochester Portman. His father was a authorities employee, his mom a beautician. Moreover his spouse, he's survived by 4 sons, a daughter, three sisters, 19 grandchildren and 5 nice-grandchildren.