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John Portman's New Tech Tower is Not So Surprising

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New renderings for Portman Holdings LCC's $360 million proposal for Tech Square show a gleaming glass high-rise that would swallow the almost vacant lot north of 4th Street, between Spring and West Peachtree streets. All told, the towering development could have more than 750,000 square feet of space, with 620,000 devoted to offices, 100,000 for a large data center and 46,000 for retail to liven up the area. A public plaza will cut through the site and provide dining space within the block, facing Spring Street. Topped by a big "GT" — we'd like to see someone steal the T from this Tech tower — the building is a study in various patterns of glass. An agglomeration of geometries, the towers sit on a podium which appears to be inexplicably rainbow hewed.

In many ways, the proposal typifies John Portman's work in the city. (1) It is built in the prevailing style of the time — while his material palette was concrete back in the 1960s and 1970s, glass has taken hold as the cladding of choice. (2) It seems to struggle to relate to the context. The proposal basically ignores what remains of the historic Crum & Forster building, which was the center of a massive debate regarding preservation. The plaza turns its back to the building, rising away from the street, and while the scale of the new development along Armstead Place attempts to address the historic remains, it's nothing more than a sad reminder of the outcome of Atlanta's poor preservation skills.

If realized as the renderings indicate, the building will no doubt be a distinctive addition to the blooming skyline in that area. With neighbors like University House and Square on Fifth already up and more residential to come, Tech's contribution to the area will help bring more diverse offerings to the burgeoning streetscape. And John Portman will be bringing a bit of panache, continuing his remarkable legacy in shaping the city.

· Georgia Tech, Portman, seek economic incentives for Tech Square project [Atlanta Business Chronicle]