The Atlanta architect known for his ‘Jesus moments’ – when visitors would look up and exclaim ‘Jesus!’ – remade his home town in ways few get to

[The] cinematic Atlanta was shaped by one man in particular, the architect-developer John Portman, who until he died last year spent almost all his 93 years in the city. The hotels, malls and offices that from the early 1960s started to define the downtown – the Merchandise Mart, the Hyatt Regency hotel, the Peachtree Center, the Marriott Marquis – are his work. These were not just profitable commercial ventures – Portman ended up with a personal wealth of hundreds of millions of dollars – but, in his eyes, works of art.

The Marriott Marquis atrium.
The Marriott Marquis atrium. © Alamy


The rewards for his audacity included his projects’ filmography. There were, as well as the recent movies and television shows listed above, The Towering Inferno (1974), Sharky’s Machine (1981), True Lies (1994), Grosse Pointe Blank (1997) and Mission: Impossible III (2006). Mel Brooks’s Hitchcock spoof High Anxiety (1977) exploited the vertiginous properties of Portman’s Hyatt Regency in San Francisco. Critics, in a classic standoff of specialist and popular taste, were less impressed. “Disneyland for adults”, his works were called. Portman would retort by pointing to signs of their popular success, such as their high occupancy rates and the people queuing just to get a look inside.