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Photos: John Portman’s downtown Atlanta legacy

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Across 14 blocks, the buildings of Peachtree Center trace the growth of Atlanta—and one ambitious Atlantan’s vision—through the years.

Looking up to the buildings and a skybridge.
A street-level view of Portman’s Peachtree Center.
Michael Kahn, Curbed Atlanta

Last week, Atlanta’s most prolific architect, John Portman, passed away at age 93, leaving a built legacy spanning downtown Atlanta (and far beyond).

His masterplanned vision for the heart of the city, realized in the form of Peachtree Center, spans 14 blocks.

These buildings, which include offices, hotels, retail, and restaurants, represent five decades of Portman’s work.

Connected by skybridges and eschewing streetfront retail in favor of inward-facing storefronts, the development has been criticized for alienating pedestrians and making parts of downtown uninviting, uninclusive places. His admirers will just as quickly argue Portman’s earlier work was simply responding to the context in an era of urban decay.

From Peachtree Street to Times Square, Portman’s architecture isn’t universally loved, but its sculptural beauty is nothing short of remarkable.

Peachtree Center’s office towers are characterized by repetitive precast concrete facades and skybridges.
Michael Kahn, Curbed Atlanta

Portman’s first office tower at Peachtree Center has been partially reborn as the Hotel Indigo.
Michael Kahn, Curbed Atlanta

The Hyatt Regency, which opened in 1967, and SunTrust Plaza, which opened in 1992.
Michael Kahn, Curbed Atlanta
SunTrust Plaza is the tallest building in downtown, dwarfing the once-towering Polaris atop the Hyatt Regency; to the right is Portman’s Marriott Marquis—known by many as the “Pregnant Building.”
Michael Kahn, Curbed Atlanta
The interior of the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. There are multiple balconies in a spherical shape. The ceiling has a skylight.
Inside the Marriott Marquis, one of Portman’s most engaging interior spaces.
Portman’s Westin Peachtree Plaza, which was the tallest hotel in the world when it opened in 1976.
Michael Kahn, Curbed Atlanta

The Westin’s pool, with retractable roof.
Jonathan Phillips, Curbed Atlanta
The Westin’s grand spiral staircase.
Jonathan Phillips, Curbed Atlanta
The Hyatt and the first towers of Peachtree Center, seen in 1967.
© Clyde May, 1967, courtesy The Portman Archives, LLC