Praised as “a legend in urban design,” John Portman Jr. received a lifetime achievement award from Craig Lesser, the chairman of the World Trade Center Atlanta, at the Governor’s International Awards dinner held at the Cobb Galleria Centre on Sept. 17.
Mr. Lesser praised Mr. Portman, 84, for “his impressive body of work, which grows still today, and a lifetime commitment to international leadership in connecting people with their physical surroundings…”
He traced Mr. Portman’s career from the development of the Atlanta Merchandise Mart to his current projects including the 151-story Incheon Tower being built in Incheon, South Korea.
He cited the Brussels International Trade Mart built in Belgium in 1975 as marking the start of Mr. Portman’s international work, which soon afterward became more involved in Asia.
With projects underway in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia, Mr. Portman became one of the first American architects to work in China. The company opened the Shanghai Centre, a large mixed-used complex, in Shanghai, China, in 1990.
Upon accepting the award, Mr. Portman said that he had been inspired by the global reach of the Coca-Cola Co. and its commitment to the economic development of wherever it was conducting business.
He also cited a trip to Brasilia, Brazil, when it was first being built so that he could see “how to build a city from scratch.” In addition, he explained the success of the Brussels International Trade Mart because it enabled buyers to comparison shop without having to travel throughout Europe.
He said that his work had been influenced by his travels, especially in northern Europe.
Mr. Portman has been knighted by the King of Belgium and served as honorary consul of Denmark from 1967-1996.
The High Museum of Art has scheduled the “John Portman: Art and Architecture” exhibition from Oct. 17-April 18, 2010.
The World Trade Center Atlanta and the Atlanta Business Chronicle jointly hosted the awards dinner.