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John C. Portman dies; architect designed New York Marriott Marquis

Architect John Portman in front of the newly

Architect John Portman in front of the newly constructed Hyatt Regency in Atlanta on June 26, 1967. Credit: AP

ATLANTA — John C. Portman, an architect and developer known for his postmodernist designs that helped reshape cities such as Atlanta and New York, has died. He was 93.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed offered condolences to Portman’s family and said the architect’s love for Atlanta “is well known and unrivaled.”

Portman’s revolutionary designs redefined urban landscapes, though sometimes not without controversy. The New York Times reported that some of his buildings were criticized as concrete islands and self-contained cities within cities.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that no single architect shaped Atlanta’s skyline like Portman. He gave the city the cylindrical Westin Peachtree Plaza hotel as well as the AmericasMart, an array of buildings downtown where wholesale goods are bought and sold. The newspaper said Portman died Friday.

He also left his mark from San Francisco to Shanghai, and helped revitalize Times Square with his famed New York Marriott Marquis.

“Anyone can build a building and put rooms in it,” he told The New York Times in 2011. “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.”

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said few people had shaped the city as much as Portman.

“His signature is written in the Atlanta skyline,” Reed said in a statement. “His love for our city — and for Downtown Atlanta — is well-known and unrivaled.”


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