Portman's Tomorrow Square building, now featured in a drawing at the San Francisco airport, was on display in model form during the High Museum of Art's John Portman: Art and Architecture" exhibition that ended April 18. Pictured on the right is the Beijing Yintai Centre, a Portman project that includes the tallest building in the Chinese capital's skyline.

An exhibition in San Francisco heralding Shanghai as China‘s gateway to the world features Tomorrow Square, one of Atlanta architectural firm John Portman & Associates‘ most recognizable buildings in the Chinese city.

The display of photos, drawings models at San Francisco International Airport focuses on high-rise architecture and Shanghai’s development as a modern city. It coincides with the Expo 2010 in Shanghai, a world’s fair that launched May 1 and is expected to draw 70 million visitors to the city in a six-month period ending in October.

Shanghai and San Francisco are sister cities. Portman has significant projects in both places. Active in China since the 1980s, the firm’s Shanghai Centre opened in 1990 as one of the first major foreign developments in the city after economic reforms in the late 1970s opened the country’s economy to overseas investors.

Completed in 2003, Tomorrow Square is a 60-story mixed use facility that slims as it rises, resolving in a hollow arrow point reaching toward the sky. It has 36 floors of executive apartments, topped by a 340-room J.W. Marriott hotel, according to Portman’s website. A scaled model of the building was featured at the “John Portman: Art and Architecture” exhibition at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, which concluded in mid-April after a six-month run.

More recently, the firm has added historic restoration projects to its extensive Chinese portfolio. The Jian Ye Li neighborhood was built by a construction company of the same name to house workers in Shanghai’s former French Concession. Portman is preserving some buildings while turning the complex into a mixed use district of townhomes, apartments and shops. Some of the original bricks are being cleaned and used in construction.

In an interview with GlobalAtlanta last year, John C. “Jack” Portman III, vice-chairman of Portman Holdings, said the Jian Ye Li project serves as a counterbalance to the high-rises that characterize most of the firm’s work in China.

“We seek variety. We don’t want to cookie-cutter stamp out the same stuff everywhere,” Mr. Portman said, adding that the development will have 50 townhouses with individual parking garages and 90 serviced apartment units.

Other works in progress in Shanghai include the Jin Hongqiao International Center, a 29-story office building, and the transformation of the historic Shanghai Club on the city’s famous Bund into Asia‘s first Waldorf-Astoria hotel.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...