Father Of Iconic Peachtree Plaza John C. Portman Dies At 93
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One of the icons of Atlanta's modern skyline has died.
John C. Portman Jr., the acclaimed architect and developer responsible for Peachtree Center, the sprawling AmericasMart in Downtown Atlanta and the distinctive Westin Peachtree Plaza and Hyatt Regency Atlanta hotels, died Friday at the age of 93.
Born in South Carolina, Portman moved to Atlanta as a young boy, where his impact on its modern skyline would be just part of a career spanning more than 40 years. His signature take on architecture and design — described by The Atlantic in 2015 as “clean lines and neo-futuristic forms” — helped to define Atlanta as the true economic engine of the New South.
His architecture has been more than enough for Hollywood, which has used many of his developments as backdrops for various movies, including 1997's "Grosse Pointe Blank," 2006's "Mission Impossible III," "The Hunger Games," the Divergent series and "The Walking Dead." His developments, which have spanned well beyond Atlanta to China and India, have garnered numerous awards, including a lifetime achievement award from the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.
“[Directors are] projecting a future by imagining how it would look in ruins,” Harvard University architectural professor Michael Hays told The Atlantic. “All the flesh has been removed and you just see the architectural bones. I’ve always thought Portman’s buildings would make very beautiful ruins, because the essence of them is so powerful and so direct.”
“Throughout his life, one question guided every decision — how will this serve people and make a lasting contribution?” the Portman family wrote in an obituary obtained by Atlanta Business Chronicle. “Portman famously said, 'It is through accomplishment that man makes his contribution and contribution is life's greatest reward.'”
Portman also was one of the first major developers to bet on Atlanta at a time when the city was experiencing a flight to the suburbs with AmericasMart, then called Atlanta Merchandise Mart, in 1957, family members said.
"[Portman] made the decision to build it downtown to encourage further development, reenergize the city and save the area for future generations," his family wrote in an obituary.
He is survived by his wife of 73 years, Joan Newton 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; Jarel Penn Portman and his wife, Traylor; and Barbara Portman, widow of his son Jae; as well as siblings, 18 grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and many nieces, nephews, cousins and other relatives.
The Portman family has scheduled a memorial services 12:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 5, inside the atrium of AmericasMart.
UPDATE, JAN. 2, 10:45 A.M. EST: This story has been updated to include more biographical information.