i+D - May/June 2019 - 46

Built with Soul - By Brian J. Barth

High-Rise Soul
In the center of most large modern cities lies a forest of glassy
buildings, home to Fortune 500 businesses and five-star hotels.
Walking at street level often feels like being in a wind tunnel,
where horns blare, smog chokes your lungs, and garbage swirls
in the urban gales. But, a designer's touch can instill a bit of
soul in even the grungiest of concrete jungles.
John Portman & Associates, an Atlanta-based firm with an office
in Shanghai, specializes in exactly this sort of transformation.
Its founder, John Portman, was the rare architect who
endeavored to build a major real estate development company.
He's responsible for many skyline-defining projects worldwide,
including Peachtree Center in Atlanta and Embarcadero Center
in San Francisco. Portman passed away in 2017, but the firm
continues with both its real estate and architecture wings.
The Portman philosophy, says Gordon R. Beckman, the firm's
design director, is to focus as much on the space between
buildings as on the buildings themselves. "As objects, buildings
are what fills the city, but it is the streets, the squares, the
intersections, the public open space where we feel we have
the most to contribute to the urban environment. These
things are not mutually exclusive; in fact, we believe they
are mutually inclusive."
Portman's buildings are typically set back from the sidewalk to
create small plazas that artfully integrate the structure with the
streetscape. These "public rooms," explains Beckman, often
extend into grand ground-floor lobbies, meant not as exclusive
zones for CEOs and their armies of businessmen, but as
canvases on which civic life can unfold. "These are gathering
spaces for the whole community, not just the people occupying
the buildings," he adds. In addition, he notes that Portman
projects often carve out quiet off-street space by fitting plazas
and parklets in the center of a block where the buildings
provide a sense of shelter from the gridlocked traffic a stone's
throw away.
Such an effect was employed with great success at Coda,
the firm's recent project in Tech Square, a bustling innovation
hub in Midtown Atlanta. In San Diego, the firm recently
completed a pair of 400-room hotels where adjacent green
space was carefully carved out to create a two-blocks-long
corridor to view the harbor, drawing pedestrians to engage with
the waterfront. "The approach makes our site smaller, but it
gives much more back to the city," says Beckman.

The philosophy at John
Portman & Associates is to
place as much focus on the
space between buildings as
on the buildings themselves.
Shown here is the Marriott
Marquis in Atlanta.
(Image: The Portman Archives,
LLC, photo by David Naughton)

The first is to engage with the community. In San Diego, the firm convened
a half dozen public meetings with 200 to 300 participants each. "There was
a time when community meetings were seen as something that you just had
to endure," states Beckman. "But, we embrace them. We embrace the input
of all the different people that are going to use the space, because we feel
the success of the project hinges on integrating their ideas and addressing
their needs."
The second is to assemble the right design team. With more than a half
century of experience integrating design and development in a unified
process, Portman is a pioneer in this regard. Beckman describes it in poetic
terms. "It's like an orchestra. It's not just about hiring a high-end landscape
architect or interior designer; it's about how you choreograph the group
in a holistic way to produce a more thoughtful and integrated environment
for the people who will inhabit it."

Beckman identifies two key elements for successfully
integrating these internal open spaces-the soul of any project,
in his view-to ensure they become animated with people,
rather than dead zones filled with grime and rubbish.

46

BRIAN J. BARTH
is a freelance writer with a background
in environmental planning and design.
He has written for a range of publications,
from Landscape Architecture Magazine to
NewYorker.com.

i+D - May/June 2019


http://www.NewYorker.com

i+D - May/June 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of i+D - May/June 2019

i+D - May/June 2019 - Cover1
i+D - May/June 2019 - Cover2
i+D - May/June 2019 - 3
i+D - May/June 2019 - 4
i+D - May/June 2019 - 5
i+D - May/June 2019 - 6
i+D - May/June 2019 - 7
i+D - May/June 2019 - 8
i+D - May/June 2019 - 9
i+D - May/June 2019 - 10
i+D - May/June 2019 - 11
i+D - May/June 2019 - 12
i+D - May/June 2019 - 13
i+D - May/June 2019 - 14
i+D - May/June 2019 - 15
i+D - May/June 2019 - 16
i+D - May/June 2019 - 17
i+D - May/June 2019 - 18
i+D - May/June 2019 - 19
i+D - May/June 2019 - 20
i+D - May/June 2019 - 21
i+D - May/June 2019 - 22
i+D - May/June 2019 - 23
i+D - May/June 2019 - 24
i+D - May/June 2019 - 25
i+D - May/June 2019 - 26
i+D - May/June 2019 - 27
i+D - May/June 2019 - 28
i+D - May/June 2019 - 29
i+D - May/June 2019 - 30
i+D - May/June 2019 - 31
i+D - May/June 2019 - 32
i+D - May/June 2019 - 33
i+D - May/June 2019 - 34
i+D - May/June 2019 - 35
i+D - May/June 2019 - 36
i+D - May/June 2019 - 37
i+D - May/June 2019 - 38
i+D - May/June 2019 - 39
i+D - May/June 2019 - 40
i+D - May/June 2019 - 41
i+D - May/June 2019 - 42
i+D - May/June 2019 - 43
i+D - May/June 2019 - 44
i+D - May/June 2019 - 45
i+D - May/June 2019 - 46
i+D - May/June 2019 - 47
i+D - May/June 2019 - 48
i+D - May/June 2019 - 49
i+D - May/June 2019 - 50
i+D - May/June 2019 - 51
i+D - May/June 2019 - 52
i+D - May/June 2019 - 53
i+D - May/June 2019 - 54
i+D - May/June 2019 - 55
i+D - May/June 2019 - 56
i+D - May/June 2019 - 57
i+D - May/June 2019 - 58
i+D - May/June 2019 - Cover3
i+D - May/June 2019 - Cover4
https://www.nxtbook.com/emerald/id/20211112
https://www.nxtbook.com/emerald/id/20210910
https://www.nxtbook.com/emerald/id/20210708
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/asid/design_product_guide_2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/emerald/id/20210506
https://www.nxtbook.com/emerald/id/20210304
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20210102
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20201112_french
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20201112
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20200910_french
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20200910
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/asid/design_product_guide
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20200708_french
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20200708
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20200506_french
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20200506
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20200304_french
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20200304
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20200102_french
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20200102
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20191112
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20191112_french
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20190910
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20190910_french
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20190708
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20190708_french
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20190506
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20190506_french
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20190304
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20190304_french
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20190102
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20190102_french
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20181112
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20181112_french
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20180910
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20180910_french
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20180708
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20180708_french
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20180506
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20180506_french
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20180304
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20180304_french
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20180102_french
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/id/20180102
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com