Saturday, January 6, 2018

REMEMBRANCE: John Portman, master of soaring, symphonic architecture

John Portman was an American "starchitect" 
whose name until recently may have flown under the radar screen, but 
whose artistry certainly did not. He passed away in December 2017 at 93, 
having achieved fame and fortune through his prolific creations
in steel and glass; his structures transformed the skyline of his hometown 
 Atlanta, and brought a magical vivacity to urban commercial architecture.
Portman in the 23-story lobby of Atlanta's iconic Hyatt Regency, built in 1967.

"Considered the first modern atrium-style hotel, 
it had glass elevators, lighted columns and cascading fountains that 
created a fizzy extravaganza of space and light." NY Times

“Anyone can build a building and put rooms in it. But we should put 
human beings at the head of our thought processes. 
You want to hopefully spark their enthusiasm.
Like riding in a glass elevator: everyone talks on a glass elevator. You get on a closed-in elevator, everyone looks down at their shoes. 
A glass elevator lets people’s spirits expand. 
Architecture should be a symphony." 
... J. Portman 

Looking up in the famed Hyatt Regency atrium 

Portman's cinematic and sci-fi-like structures have appeared
in many films, including Mel Brooks' High Anxiety (1977)
In the Line of Fire (1993), where Clint Eastwood’s Secret Service agent 
outlasts a would-be presidential assassin in a glass elevator at the  
LA Westin Bonaventure, and Mission Impossible III (2006).

General Motors headquarters, centerpiece of the Renaissance Center in Detroit

In the late 60s, Portman went on to design and facilitate the building of many more hotels and commercial venues. These included the Marriott Marquis in New York (a great place to have dinner and watch the action in Times Square), the Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles, and the sprawling Peachtree Center in Atlanta.
His buildings can now be seen in 60 cities all over the world. 

 Westin Hotel, Warsaw, Poland

 Some critics dismissed Portman's work as being “architecture at happy hour.”
Others considered his buildings to be "concrete islands" that looked like "urban malls,
paradoxically cut off from the downtowns they were intended to rescue."
For a time, he was considered a "maverick", and was nearly thrown out of the
 American Institute of Architects. A man after my own heart!

Below: Peachtree Center in Atlanta

A trailer for the luminous film John Portman: A Life of Building  
can be viewed here.

~ oOo ~

No comments:

Post a Comment