ATLANTA - Atlanta architect John C. Portman Jr., passed away at the age of 93 on Friday, December 29, 2017.
Portman's leadership among the neo-futurist movement of the mid-20th Century was seen in business structures across America and around the world. His mark was significantly noted in downtown Atlanta, with such signature structures as the Peachtree Center and America's Mart complexes.
Other notable architectural works include Detroit's Renaissance Center, San Francisco's Embarcadero Center, and signature hotel structures for the original Hyatt Regency hotels in Atlanta, Houston and Chicago, along with the Westin Peachtree Plaza in Atlanta, the Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles, the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, the Marina Square complex in Singapore, the Shanghai Centre complex in Shanghai, the JW Marriott complex in San Francisco, the New York Marriott Marquis in Midtown Manhattan, the SunTrust Plaza in Atlanta, and many other significant projects.
Portman was born on December 4, 1924, in Walhalla, South Carolina, the only son of John and Edna Portman's six children. Raised in Atlanta, Portman began selling magazines on the street corner before beginning his own "franchise plan" to sell gum in front of the city's movie theaters.
Early on, the young Portman found he could invest in a case of gum, then sell them for a profit. He recruited classmates to stand in front of theaters with the gum while he rode his bike between the theaters, collecting money, making change and replenishing supplies.
Portman graduated from Georgia Tech in 1950, and opened his own architectural firm in 1953.
Over the years, Portman's vision has been sought out by developers and city planners looking to craft and redesign urban spaces pioneered by his work in Atlanta and expanded on in his other works.
With the design of the Hyatt Regency Atlanta in 1967, Portman completely redesigned the hotel experience with its dramatic 22-story sky-lit atrium.
Within the atrium, glass-enclosed elevators whisked visitors to hotel rooms or to a revolving rooftop restaurant. The design caught attention around the world, and his work was brought to other projects in cities first across the United States, then internationally.
Back at home, Portman was a founding member of Atlanta's Action Forum, where along with other like-minded business leaders, he worked to ensure that the city pressed forward in successfully dealing with issues that divided other cities.
Portman's legacy lives on as one of the business titans of Atlanta's past and future. He is survived by his wife of 73 years, Joan Newton (Jan) Portman; his children Michael Wayne (Jody) Portman, John Calvin (Jack) Portman, III, Jeffrey Lin Portman and his wife Lisa, Jana Lee Portman Simmons and her husband Jed, and Jarel Penn Portman and his wife Traylor; his siblings Glenda Portman Dodrill, Anne Portman Davis, Joy Portman Roberts and her husband Phil; nineteen grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, many nieces, nephews, cousins, and other relatives and loved ones.
A public service for Portman is planned for Friday, January 5 at 12:30 p.m., in the atrium at AmericasMart building 3, at the corner of John Portman Boulevard and Ted Turner Drive in downtown Atlanta. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, Office of Gift Records, Emory University, 1762 Clifton Road, NE, Suite 1400, Atlanta, GA 30322.
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