clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Portman's Buildings Provide Apocalyptic Hollywood Heaven

John Portman has left an indelible mark on the city of Atlanta, and in doing so has unintentionally provided a backdrop for many-a box office smash. The Atlantic delved deep into the relationship of the Atlanta skyline and repeat movie appearances, highlighting that the architect whose buildings fill more than a dozen blocks in the heart of downtown inadvertently created a futuristic post-apocalyptic landscape — a magnet for producers and location scouts these days. While some may argue the aggressive tax incentives Georgia implemented in 2008 have created the Y'allywood effect, others think the nonagenarian architect is just as much to thank for shaping the city's reputation as a filming haven.

Portman's style, at the confluence of modernism (glass and steel) and brutalism (concrete), emphasizes clean geometries and dramatic scale changes. Many of his buildings have large atriums with glass elevators perfect for creating a sense of desolate emptiness, grandiose spaces and even a dramatic fall scene or two. His hotels — among them the Hyatt Regency, Marriott Marquis and Westin Peachtree Plaza — are iconic yet flexible spaces that, with the help of a bit of CGI, have played host to scenes from the retro Sharky's Machine with Burt Reynolds to The Hunger Games. But it's the stark uniformity (though some would say dated hideousness) of his office buildings at Peachtree Center which really up the ante. The Atlantic quotes a Harvard professor of architectural theory, who sums up the success of the towers on screen: "I've always thought Portman's buildings would make very beautiful ruins." Could that be the most insulting compliment ever?

And it's not just Portman's Atlanta works which make the silver screen. From Detroit to Los Angeles, his buildings have been featured in numerous movies — a testament to their design. But it's in Atlanta where the cinema magic is really happening, and that's probably something to be proud of.

· How 1980s Atlanta Became the Backdrop for the Future [The Atlantic]
· John Portman Coverage [Curbed Atlanta]