John Portman’s influence explored in a new book


interior of a hotel atrium

In 1995, Ramón Prat and photographer Jordi Bernadó published Atlanta, a book of images of that city on the edge of the 21st century. A generation later, a new volume titled Portman’s America & Other Speculations revisits Atlanta—and American urbanism at large—in this not-so-new century through the work of hometown architect John Portman.

Photographer Iwan Baan traveled to Portman buildings around the United States, documenting his work in New York, Detroit, San Francisco, and, of course, Atlanta.

interior of a hotel atrium designed by John Portman
Hyatt Regency, Atlanta, 1967. (Courtesy Iwan Baan)

Interior view of a hotel lobby
Entelechy II, Sea Island, Georgia, 1986. (Courtesy Iwan Baan)

The images reveal a humanism that’s lost in the Hunger Games films and the Walking Dead television series, which exposed Portman’s work to most of America. Lush shots of Entelechy I and II, the Georgia houses the architect built for his family, coexist among now-classic takes on his supersized atria and their stacked balconies. Amid the drama, Baan’s work captures the everyday: a woman on her phone outside the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, a guy perched on a curved red banquette at the Westin Bonaventure hotel in L.A., and the sculptures and furniture Portman created to enhance the spaces he developed and designed.

Interior view of a hotel lobby
Westin Bonaventure, Los Angeles, 1977. (Courtesy Iwan Baan)

Interior view of an office building
Renaissance Center, Detroit, 1976/1988. (Courtesy Iwan Baan)

Four essays (including one by Portman himself), a conversation between the architect’s close friends and family, plus student work from a Portmanian architecture class at Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD), complement Baan’s images.

“The resulting photographs,” wrote editor Mohsen Mostafavi, dean of the GSD, “capture the view as if in a state of distraction; Portman’s architecture, and by extension Portman’s America, is presented as it is today, for all to see.”