John Portman, Architect Who Made Skylines Soar, Dies at 93 – New York Times


John Portman, the architect and developer who revolutionized lodge designs with hovering futuristic atriums, constructed industrial towers that revitalized the downtowns of decaying postwar American cities and reworked Asian skylines from Shanghai to Mumbai, died on Friday in Atlanta. He was 93.

Mr. Portman’s household introduced his loss of life. No trigger was given.

One of many world’s finest-recognized and most influential architects, Mr. Portman, over a half-century, redefined city landscapes in the USA. He constructed the Peachtree Middle in Atlanta, the Embarcadero Middle in San Francisco, the Renaissance Middle in Detroit and scores of lodge, workplace and retail complexes in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Fort Value, San Diego and different cities.

His buildings typically evoked oohs and aahs from the general public, however weren't all the time a success with critics, who referred to 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, Mr. Portman was massively profitable and a rarity amongst contemporaries: each an artist and a troublesome businessman.

Within the 1960s and ’70s, his signature accommodations — 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.

The Common Motors headquarters is the centerpiece of Mr. Portman’s Renaissance Middle in Detroit.Credit scoreJeff Kowalsky/European Press Affiliation

An Atlanta maverick who defied architects’ ethics codes by plunging into actual property improvement, Mr. Portman, who had no cash to begin with, made and misplaced thousands and thousands cofinancing lots of his personal tasks. From the 1980s on he designed and constructed accommodations, retail marts and workplace towers in China, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and India — and extra complexes in Europe, the Center East and the USA.

As they proliferated in the USA, Mr. Portman’s atrium accommodations, many constructed for the Hyatt Company, have been broadly imitated by different architects who sought to capitalize on the dizzying exhilaration (some referred to as it terror) of patrons hovering 50 tales in a Buck Rogers glass capsule, or eating underneath the celebrities as town moved in a circle with the galactic evening. You didn't even should 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 Mr. 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 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 Mr. Portman had repeated himself too typically.

Mr. Portman in his Atlanta workplace in 2011. “Anybody can construct a constructing and put rooms in it,” he stated. “However we should always put human beings at the pinnacle of our thought processes. You wish to hopefully spark their enthusiasm.”Credit scoreT. Lynne Pixley for The New York Times

However his atriums have been laced into in style tradition. Within 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, “Within 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 pale within the 1970s, Mr. Portman’s industrial towers have been hailed as downtown saviors, bringing again vacationers and suburban buyers, 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 meant to rescue.

His Renaissance Middle 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 fort. Workplace staff, guests and suburban buyers may drive out and in with out ever setting foot downtown.

Mr. Portman’s Marriott Marquis Lodge, which opened on a nonetheless-seedy Times 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 Times’s structure critic. “Like a lot of Mr. Portman’s structure, the lodge is turned virtually fully inward; the architect appears taken with 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.”

The atrium of the Shandong Lodge in Jinan, China, a Portman challenge.Credit scoreYi Zeng/John Portman & Associates

Mr. Portman scoffed, arguing that open areas in congested cities relieved anxieties. Influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, who harmonized buildings with folks and environment, Mr. Portman stated his personal buildings, particularly accommodations, have been oases inside cities, designed to reinforce the experiences of people that used them.

“Anybody can construct a constructing and put rooms in it,” he instructed The Times in 2011. “However we should always put human beings at the pinnacle of our thought processes. You wish 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 sneakers. A glass elevator lets folks’s spirits increase. Structure needs to be a symphony.”

Colleagues stated Mr. Portman, like his buildings, was proudly self-contained. Tall, tender-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.

In a occupation that regarded structure and actual property improvement as a battle of curiosity, he aggressively pursued each, designing buildings whereas his agency purchased property and organized financing and building for tasks that required companions and thousands and thousands from lenders. At first, no lodge chain would contact his concepts. Even in Atlanta, few accepted his imaginative and prescient of a redeemable downtown.

The Marriott Marquis in Times Sq.. One critic referred to as it a “chilly, grim place” and wrote that “to the remainder of New York, this constructing turns a harsh concrete wall.”Credit scoreRobert Caplin for The New York Times

However the Peachtree Middle in Atlanta was a spectacular success: 14 blocks of workplace towers, accommodations and buying arcades, opened in 1961 with the Merchandise Mart, a wholesale complicated that lured hordes of consumers. The Hyatt Regency was inbuilt 1967 to accommodate them. It made Mr. Portman well-known, revolutionized lodge building and spurred Peachtree to completion. It was a key to the downtown renaissance and altered Atlanta’s view of itself.

“Portman noticed his mission as making town protected for the center class,” Mr. Goldberger wrote in 1996, “and he did so virtually too properly, for he crammed Atlanta with buildings that introduced a type of suburban mall mentality to the middle of downtown.”

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 College.

In 1944, Mr. Portman married Joan Newton. That they had six youngsters. 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 loss of life by a son, Jae, and two sisters, Mabel Creel and Phyllis Tippet.

The highest of the Hyatt Regency lodge in Atlanta, designed by Mr. Portman.Credit scoreErik S. Lesser for The New York Times

Mr. Portman attended the USA Naval Academy in 1944 and 1945, then transferred to the Georgia Institute of Know-how, the place he earned a level in structure in 1950. After an apprenticeship with an Atlanta architect, he opened his personal apply in 1953. He struggled at first, designing drugstores and YMCAs.

A rising respect for the laborious financial realities of structure prompted Mr. Portman’s first enterprise into actual property, financing a small medical constructing he designed. The deal fell by way of, however Mr. Portman was satisfied that improvement was the important thing to success in structure.

In 1956, he and H. Griffith Edwards, a former Georgia Tech professor, turned companions. Mr. Portman designed buildings and Mr. 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, Mr. Portman’s artistic genesis.

Within the 1980s, Mr. Portman developed properties in Shanghai, Singapore and South Korea. By the tip of the last decade, with capital drying up and regulators tightening lending necessities, his empire was $2 billion in debt. He surrendered a controlling curiosity within the Peachtree Middle, the keystone of his holdings.

However in 1991, the lenders let him retain most of his properties and offered thousands and thousands in new capital in trade for eight p.c of Mr. Portman’s property. He was quickly on his toes once more, finishing the large, multiuse Shanghai Centre and properties in Beijing; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Mumbai, India.

Mr. Portman not often attended public occasions, although he accepted many awards in particular person and gave events for tons of. He painted abstracts, created sculptures and designed furnishings at a seashore home he constructed on Sea Island, Ga. He co-wrote a number of books, together with “The Architect as Developer” (1976, with Jonathan Barnett), and was the main focus of a 2011 documentary by Ben Loeterman, “John Portman: A Lifetime of Constructing.”

At 86, he was nonetheless working John Portman & Associates. “A fish obtained to swim and a chook obtained to fly,” he instructed The Times in his Southern Consolation drawl. “I’m right here six days per week, and it’d be seven if I didn’t make a dedication to my spouse to take a day without work.” He by no means retired.


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John Portman, Architect Who Made Skylines Soar, Dies at 93 - New York Times