John Portman, Architect Who Designed Soaring Atrium Hotels, Dies at 93

The Marriott Marquis, which opened in 1985, helped revitalize the then-seedy Times Square area.

By Paul Riegler on 31 December 2017
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John Portman, an American architect and developer who popularized hotels with soaring atria such as the Hyatt Regency Atlanta while also helping revitalize downtown districts in multiple U.S. cities, died Friday at the age of 93.

Mr. Portman was considered one of the world’s best-known and most influential architects of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

His innovative 22-story Hyatt Regency Atlanta, formerly the Regency Hyatt House, introduced travelers to a central atrium encircled by guest rooms and exposed elevators, a genre that led to the Hyatt Regency O’Hare and many other Hyatt Regency hotels with similar atria. His design for the Marriott Marquis in New York City contributed to the revitalization of Times Square. The hotel is well known for its atrium lobby that rises 48 stories to the city’s only rooftop revolving restaurant and lounge.

Although not designed by John Portman, the Hyatt Regency SFO features an atrium lobby that became a trademark of the brand after being introduced by him.

Although not designed by John Portman, the Hyatt Regency SFO features an atrium lobby that became a trademark of the brand after being introduced by him.

Designed in the 1960s and ’70s, his signature hotels featured revolving rooftop restaurants, waterfalls, glass elevators, and hanging gardens among other design elements. The open lobbies in the sweeping atria served as a stark contrast to the more traditional and rather dreary by comparison hotel lobbies of the period.

His portfolio included many notable buildings and complexes including the Peachtree Center in Atlanta, the Renaissance Center in Detroit, the Embarcadero Center in San Francisco, and buildings in numerous U.S cities as well as multiple projects in China, Malaysia, Poland, and Singapore.

Mr. Portman was born in Walhalla, South Carolina, and moved to Atlanta with his family at a young age. During the Second World War he served in the U.S. Navy and later studied architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

No cause of death was given.

He is survived by his wife, Joan Newton Portman; four sons and one daughter; three sisters; as well as numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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