John C. Portman Jr.

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John C. Portman Jr.
John Calvin Portman Jr.

(1924-12-04)December 4, 1924
DiedDecember 29, 2017(2017-12-29) (aged 93)
  • AIA Medal for Innovations in Hotel Design
  • AIA Silver Medal Award for Innovative Design
  • Urban Land Institute Award for Excellence
PracticeJohn Portman & Associates

John Calvin Portman Jr. (December 4, 1924 – December 29, 2017) was an American neofuturistic architect and real estate developer widely known for popularizing hotels and office buildings with multi-storied interior atria. Portman also had a particularly large impact on the cityscape of his hometown of Atlanta, with the Peachtree Center complex serving as downtown's business and tourism anchor from the 1970s onward.[1] The Peachtree Center area includes Portman-designed Hyatt, Westin, and Marriott hotels. Portman's plans typically deal with primitives in the forms of symmetrical squares and circles.

Early life and career[edit]

Portman was born to John C. Portman, Sr. and Edna Rochester Portman. He has five sisters. He graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1950. His firm completed the Merchandise Mart (now AmericasMart) in downtown Atlanta in 1961. The multi-block Peachtree Center was begun in 1965 and would expand to become the main center of hotel and office space in Downtown Atlanta, taking over from the Five Points area just to the south. Portman would develop a similar multiblock complex at San Francisco's Embarcadero Center (1970s), which unlike its Atlanta counterpart, heavily emphasized pedestrian activity at street level.

The Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Portman's first atrium hotel, would lead to many more iconic hotels and multi-use complexes with atria, including the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles (1974–1976), the New York Marriott Marquis (1982–1985), and the Renaissance Center in Detroit (first phase 1973-1977), whose central tower remained the tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere until the completion of 1717 Broadway in 2013.

His signature work in China, the Shanghai Centre (1990), was the first of many major projects in China and elsewhere in Asia. The 5-star hotel inside, The Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai (formerly Portman Shangri-La Hotel), was named after him.

In 2009 Portman's work was featured in a major exhibition at Atlanta's High Museum of Art.

Portman was a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.

Personal life[edit]

Portman married Joan "Jan" Newton. They have six children, Michael Wayne Portman, John Calvin "Jack" Portman III, Jeffrey Lin Portman, Jae Phillip Portman, Jana Lee Portman Simmons, and Jarel Penn Portman.

Portman died on December 29, 2017, aged 93.[2][3] He was survived by his wife Jan; his children, Michael, Jack, Jeff and his wife Lisa, Jana and her husband Jed, and Jarel 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. He was preceded by his parents; his siblings Mabel Portman Creel and Phyllis Portman Tippet; his son Jae and Jae's wife Barbara Saroff Green Portman.


Looking up into atrium of the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, first of Portman's atrium hotels
Embarcadero Hyatt Atrium, San Francisco
Renaissance Center, Detroit, MI
Shanghai Centre
Beijing Yintai Centre

In chronological order by first listed completion date — for complexes, by completion date of first building in complex

An asterisk (*) following a listing indicates a work done in partnership with H. Griffith Edwards.


  • AmericasMart (formerly the Atlanta Market Center), Atlanta
    • AmericasMart 1 (also known as the Merchandise Mart), 1961*
    • AmericasMart 2 (also known as the Gift Mart), 1992
    • AmericasMart 2 West, 2008
    • AmericasMart 3 (also known as the Apparel Mart), 1979
  • Atlanta Decorative Arts Center (ADAC), Peachtree Hills, Atlanta, 1961
  • Cary Reynolds Elementary (formerly Sequoyah Elementary and Northwoods Area Elementary before that), 1961
  • Sequoyah Middle School (formerly Sequoyah High School), 1963
  • 230 Peachtree Building (formerly the Peachtree Center Tower), Atlanta, 1965*
  • Antoine Graves, Atlanta, 1965*
  • Antoine Graves Annex, Atlanta, 1966*
  • Henderson High School, Chamblee, 1967*
  • Peachtree Center, Atlanta
    • Peachtree Center North (formerly the Atlanta Gas Light Tower), 1967*
    • Peachtree Center South, 1969
    • Peachtree Center International Tower (formerly the Peachtree Cain Building), 1972*
    • Harris Tower, 1975*
    • Marquis One, 1985
    • Marquis Two, 1989
  • Hyatt Regency Atlanta (formerly the Regency Hyatt House), 1967*
  • Hyatt Regency O'Hare, Rosemont, 1969





Awards and honors[edit]


Portman was praised for his "cinematic"[9] interiors artfully relating interior space and elements to the individual. In the 1960s and 1970s the placement of such buildings in America's decaying downtowns was considered salvation of the city centers, but some contemporary city planners are critical of such insular environments that "turn their back" on the city streets.[10] For example, the New York Marriott Marquis with its 8-floor high lobby was praised as a "town square", but is now criticized by some for turning its back to Times Square. Nonetheless, at the time the hotel was built, due to the still-seedy character of Times Square, Portman's style of inwardly-oriented spaces made logical sense. Also, he did, in fact, design buildings (like San Francisco's Embarcadero Center) that heavily emphasized pedestrian activity at street level.[11]


  • Portman, John; Barnett, Jonathan (1976). The Architect as Developer. McGraw Hill. ISBN 0-07-050536-5.


External links[edit]