Recognized throughout the world for his innovative design, John Portman did not always follow traditional paths. Always eager to try new concepts, early in his career he pioneered the role of architect as developer to allow more freedom in implementation of his design concepts. His keen business sense and entrepreneurial spirit enabled him to develop many profitable projects.
His impact is greatest on his hometown of Atlanta where today the 14-block Peachtree Center complex attests to his commitment to the downtown business district and includes many of his landmark projects. Peachtree Center began in 1960 with the opening of the Atlanta Merchandise Mart. The Mart has since grown to become AmericasMart, the world’s largest single wholesale marketplace. By stimulating trade and tourism, Portman was the catalyst that established Atlanta as one of the nation’s premiere convention cities. His three major downtown hotels, the Hyatt Regency, Westin Peachtree Plaza, and Marriott Marquis, anchor the convention district. From the opening of the Hyatt Regency in 1967, with its 22-story atrium, Portman made architectural history and won international acclaim. Paul Goldberger of The New York Times wrote “He (Portman) is the only architect of his era to create not only a series of significant buildings, but a new urban type.” Paul Gapp of The Chicago Tribune wrote at the time, ”The most influential living American architect is John Calvin Portman, Jr.” further adding, “Countless other architects have copied him but the music just isn’t the same.”
Portman is best known for his urban mixed-use complexes wherein his understanding of people and their response to space translates into enhanced environments and award-winning architecture. From Embarcadero Center in San Francisco and Times Square in New York to Marina Square in Singapore and Shanghai Centre in China, he has taken people away from the congestion of urban life to create spaces that are open and uplifting to the human spirit. Portman’s love of art is evident in all that he does. He supports the arts, he collects, and he, himself, is a painter and sculptor.