Dean Mohsen Mostafavi talks John Portman, Atlanta architecture, and “Portman’s America” with Georgia Public Radio

On Tuesday, February 19, Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) Dean Mohsen Mostafavi joined Georgia Public Radio’s (GPR) “On Second Thought” for a 25-minute conversation with host Virginia Prescott about John C. Portman, Jr., the legendary architect and developer who passed away in December 2017 at the age of 93, his imprint indelible on cityscapes around the world. Mostafavi and Prescott discussed some of Portman’s signature achievements in Atlanta, such as his Peachtree Center, Marriott Marquis, Hyatt Regency – the first fully integrated hotel in Atlanta – and other mega-structures. They also examined Portman’s legacy writ large, in terms of both specific projects and their impacts as well as his masterful hybridization of the developer-architect who synthesizes design, real estate, economics, technology, and artistic and social sensitivity.

“Without Atlanta legend John Portman, you might never walk into a hotel lobby with a cavernous atrium, an office tower with stacked balconies or a shopping center with transparent elevators whizzing up and down,” observes GPR in its online feature. “Portman revolutionized architecture, turning buildings inward to jaw-dropping effect. To quote his close friend, Ambassador Andrew Young, ‘Everybody became a country bumpkin when they walked into the Hyatt. You had to say, Oh my god, what is this?'”

The full 25-minute interview, which was broadcast live at 9:20 a.m. on February 19, is available for listening online.

Over the years, Portman shared a special relationship with Mostafavi and with the GSD. Portman lectured at the GSD in March 2013, reminding the audience that “It’s all about people.” Mostafavi recently edited the book Portman’s America: & Other Speculations (May 2017), offering Portman’s own voice and ideas alongside dialogue and analysis from a series of GSD students and faculty, as well as Iwan Baan’s photographic look at a number of Portman projects.

Mostafavi also recently discussed John Portman with Metropolis magazine, alongside Portman’s son Jack, and with City Lab.