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John Portman: A Life of Building

John Portman: A Life of Building

Mon Mar 25, 10.15-11.10pm, BBC4

By Rachel Aroesti
It may seem a little alien to British viewers that it’s the architect himself heartily singing his own praises in this documentary, but we might as well get over it: Portman was undoubtedly a pioneering force in modern architecture, even if he does say so himself. His decision to mix business with creativity by being both designer and developer caused controversy within the ’60s establishment, but it allowed him unparalleled artistic freedom.

His work is a stunning testament to that, especially Atlanta’s Hyatt hotel built in 1967 (which one pundit describes as the first modern building he ever saw), and his own romantic, vine-strewn summer home. But there’s a sense, especially as the programme shifts focus to his family, painting and status in China, that just as much could be gained by scrolling through (and maybe slowly zooming in and out of) some pictures of Portman’s designs at your own leisure. At least that way you can avoid the irrelevance; like the architect’s parenting philosophy and a bizarrely extended description of a ‘mart’.

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