Picture: T. LYNNE PIXLEY / NYT
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 reworked Asian skylines from Shanghai to Mumbai, died Friday in Atlanta. He was 93.
Portman’s household introduced his demise. No trigger was given.
One of many world’s finest-recognized and most influential architects, Portman, over a half century, redefined city landscapes in the US. He constructed the Embarcadero Heart in San Francisco, the Peachtree Heart in Atlanta, 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 typically evoked oohs and aahs from the general public, however weren't at all times 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 abilities with the savvy of an actual property entrepreneur, Portman was massively profitable and a rarity amongst contemporaries: each an artist and a tricky businessman.
Within the 1960s and ’70s, his signature lodges — skyscrapers with escarpment atriums, cantilevered balconies overlooking interiors sufficiently big to include the Statue of Liberty, whooshing glass elevators, waterfalls, hanging gardens and revolving rooftop eating places — supplied thrilling antidotes to the usual 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 growth, Portman, who had no cash to start out with, made and misplaced thousands and thousands co-financing a lot of his personal tasks. 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 US.
As they proliferated in the US, Portman’s atrium lodges, many constructed for Hyatt Corp., have been extensively 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 celebs as town moved in a circle with the galactic evening. You didn't even must lease 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 within the foyer. The collapse killed 114 folks and injured 216 others in one of many nation’s deadliest structural failures.
By the late 1980s, with atriums within the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco, the Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles, 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 mentioned Portman had repeated himself too typically.
However his atriums have been laced into fashionable tradition. Within the 1977 movie “Excessive Anxiousness,” Mel Brooks, as an acrophobic psychiatrist going through a sheer drop on the San Francisco Hyatt, inches to his room clinging to the partitions. And in a 1993 movie, “Within the Line of Fireplace,” Clint Eastwood’s Secret Service agent outlasts a would-be presidential murderer in a glass elevator on the Los Angeles Bonaventure.
As federal assist for city renewal pale within 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 reduce off from downtowns they have been supposed to rescue.
His Renaissance Heart in Detroit was a evident instance. A cluster of 4 39-story workplace buildings and a 73-story lodge with retailers, eating places and theaters was constructed within 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 citadel. Workplace staff, guests and suburban customers might drive out and in with out ever setting foot downtown.
Portman’s Marriott Marquis Lodge, which opened on a nonetheless-seedy Instances 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 Instances’ structure critic. “Like a lot of Mr. Portman’s structure, the lodge is turned nearly utterly 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 folks and environment, Portman mentioned his personal buildings, particularly lodges, have been oases inside cities, designed to boost the experiences of individuals who used them.
“Anybody can construct a constructing and put rooms in it,” he advised the Instances in 2011. “However we should always put human beings on the head of our thought processes. You wish to hopefully spark their enthusiasm. Like driving in a glass elevator: Everybody talks on a glass elevator. You get on a closed-in elevator, everybody seems to be down at their footwear. A glass elevator lets folks’s spirits develop. Structure needs to be a symphony.”
Colleagues mentioned Portman, like his buildings, was proudly self-contained. Tall, comfortable-spoken, with a mild smile and wavy hair, he labored incessantly, was not given to small discuss and by no means shed his slight air of Outdated South formality.
John Calvin Portman Jr. was born in Walhalla, S.C., on Dec. four, 1924, to John Calvin and Edna Rochester Portman. His father was a authorities employee, his mom a beautician. He grew up in Atlanta, the place he performed soccer and graduated in 1943 from Tech Excessive Faculty.
In 1944, John Portman married Joan Newton. They'd six kids. In addition to his spouse, he's survived by 4 sons, Michael, John C. III, Jeffrey and Jarel; a daughter, Jana Simmons; three sisters, Glenda Dodrill, Anne Davis and Pleasure Roberts; 19 grandchildren; and 5 nice-grandchildren. He was preceded in demise by a son, Jae, and two sisters, Mabel Creel and Phyllis Tippet.
John Portman attended the U.S. Naval Academy in 1944 and 1945, then transferred to the Georgia Institute of Expertise, the place he earned a level in structure in 1950. After an apprenticeship with an Atlanta architect, he opened his personal observe in 1953. He struggled at first, designing drugstores and YMCAs.
A rising respect for the onerous financial realities of structure prompted Portman’s first enterprise into actual property, financing a small medical constructing he designed. The deal fell via, however Portman was satisfied that growth was the important thing to success in structure.
In 1956, he and H. Griffith Edwards, a former Georgia Tech professor, turned companions. Portman designed buildings and Edwards, 20 years older, managed building till he retired in 1968. They took joint credit score for a lot of tasks, together with the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Portman’s artistic genesis.
By Robert D. McFadden is a New York Instances author.