John Portman told me that aback he was a little boy, he was so poor that he didn’t accept any toys, so he played in his backyard by authoritative abstract cities out of mud bags and old bottle Coca-Cola bottles. I anamnesis activity with him to the absurd artist’s branch Polich Tallix in upstate New York to analysis on the advance of a carve he was creating for one of our projects in India. This massive carve was underway, and afterwards attractive it over, Dick Polich took Portman over to some adobe forms he’d set up, and Portman started arena with them. He was like that. He aloof admired to create, and was in his area aback he did.
There was a cine fabricated about Portman by Ben Loeterman alleged A Activity of Building, and in it, Portman affectionate of badly says, “It’s about life!” He’s bedeviled with creating and comestible life, in his architectonics and in his way of being. Activity bottomward to his abode Entelechy II, on Sea Island in Georgia, you can see it there, everywhere. The architectonics is about a big filigree with a lanai beneath the advanced bisected and a carve of calm and alfresco spaces in the back. But the absolute home is teaming with life, plants, vines, blooming, active actual everywhere. The architectonics is apparently his best formally circuitous project, but it about seems foremost like an armature for the plants.
It’s appealing able-bodied accepted amid Portman’s ancestors and the bodies in his companies that he was aggressive by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Frank Lloyd Wright. The adventure of how a adolescent John Portman went to see Wright aback he came to Atlanta was told aback he was eulogized aftermost week. Portman told me that adventure about ten years ago, but he told it differently. And the aberration tells you a lot about his personality. Portman said, “I heard the Abundant Master was advancing to Atlanta. So, I went and stood in this huge band for hours and hours to see the Man. Finally, my about-face came. He was sitting there, and I inched up to him and said, ‘I appetite to be an architect. What should I do?’ and afterwards all this time in line, he looked at me and said, ‘Go seek Emerson.’ Pause…‘Next.’”
Portman was funny, and humble, self-deprecating, and had a absolute account for people, like Wright and others. At the memorial, they larboard out the “Next,” and maybe that was adapted for the black attributes of the event. But aback you apprehend Portman acquaint the story, it’s funny and alluring to brainstorm him, this Abundant Master in his own right, actuality shooed abroad by Wright all those years ago. But he did seek Emerson. He begin a way of active that was abiding in self-reliance, and an all-comprehensive acknowledgment for activity that permeated his architectonics and his relationships.
He took a accumulation of us to see Wright’s Fallingwater in 2012. I anticipate it was his way of pointing us against Emerson and Wright and allowance us to see, feel, and acquaintance immediate some of what he knew. It was raining, and the abode is appealing abysmal in the woods, and the one iconic appearance that you get in all the photos is from bottomward in a ravine. Portman charge accept been 88 at the time, but he went afire bottomward there, all over the property. We spent time demography it all in, and again that black he’d abiding a banquet area we all went about and talked about what we got out of it. He ran things that way, afflictive anybody to accompany their account advanced and again guiding, editing, and accumulation the best account from anniversary actuality into a adamant project.
Portman was consistently assimilation up ideas. He was curious. He had endless of magazines on his board and admired to break current, but eschewed annihilation he advised a “trend.” Atlanta was his admired burghal and the abode he drew his ability from, but Venice, Italy, was his additional favorite. We went there to be allotment of the Venice Biennale in 2010 and see what was new. I anamnesis Portman actuality actual absorbed to see the exhibits and, in particular, what was in the Japanese pavilion. We got there and it was a actual clinking accession that is about the arctic adverse of what I would accede “Portmanesque.” He looked in, aloof out his cheeks, affectionate of shrugged his amateur and smiled as if to say, “What’s this crazy thing?” But again he went in and blood-soaked it up and talked at breadth with the babysitter with a blur aggregation in tow.
He was advanced and consistently respectful. He never criticized anyone and was absolute in giving the affidavit for his decisions. It would accept been accessible for him to say, “Because I said so.” But he never did. I anticipate he remained accessible to the abstraction that others would see things that maybe he hadn’t considered. One time aback we were walking through the skyway of Sun Trust Plaza Tower afterwards I comatose and austere in a meeting, he put his arm about my accept and said, “You know, if you accept a abundant abstraction and you’re aggravating to actuate addition to do it, it’s usually bigger if they anticipate it’s their abundant idea.” Portman accepted people, how they anticipate and feel, and was acceptable in administration what he knew.
Portman consistently looked to the future. He kept affective forward, alike as we asperous the Abundant Recession, during which time he did not lay off a distinct person. He told me already that it’s accessible to be absolute aback you’re up, but it’s added important to be absolute aback you’re down; admonition he got from his mother, whom he revered. John Portman affected the lives of abounding bodies over the advance of his continued and advantageous career. He had an artist’s heart. He corrective alfresco the lines, and we’ll absence him.
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