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Atlanta's Favorite Architect Inspires Science Fiction

Even movies set long ago and far, far away have to be filmed somewhere. With uncanny frequency, many of them, including "The Hunger Games" and "Insurgent," have been filmed in the futuristic/dystopian landscape designed by John Portman in Atlanta.
April 2, 2015, 12pm PDT | Josh Stephens | @jrstephens310
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Brett Weinstein

Having been rebuilt from scratch following the Civil War, Atlanta hit its stride by the 1980s, when it embraced modernist planning and modern architecture like few other American cities had. One of the poster children for urban sprawl, Atlanta built miles of freeways and built downtown towers with scant connections to the streets. Leading this modernist transformation was architect John Portman, whose signature atriums, glass elevators, and glass facades were meant to feel like cities within a city, sealed off from the chaos outside. 

While urban planning has moved on from that era, Portman's apparent quest for modernity has made his buildings seem more futuristic than ever, so much so that they are frequently featured in science fiction films. The future often does not look very bright. Recently, post-apocalyptic stories including The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Insurgent, and Interstellar have all used Portman buildings as backdrops. 

Analyzing the role of Portman's work in contemporary cinema, Kristi York Wootten writes in The Atlantic

"Filmmakers use architecture to represent societies that are forming or collapsing, and conceptual structures are too eccentric to symbolize the collective groups that dominate dystopian storylines. Portman’s work fits on film in part because his design philosophy straddles the modernism and brutalism handed down to his generation from predecessors such as Le Corbusier and Marcel Breuer, who strove to incorporate functionality and community into their buildings."

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Published on Monday, March 30, 2015 in The Atlantic
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