Recognized throughout the world for his innovative architectural design, John Portman rarely followed traditional paths. Driven to explore new design, construction, and interactive concepts, Portman charged forward in his career as a maverick who was nearly run out of the American Institute of Architects.
As a result, early in his career, he pioneered the role of “architect as developer” to allow more freedom in implementation of his design concepts — rather than “selling” his ideas to doubters or watering them down to suit the risk-averse nature of more plebeian developers. His shrewd business skills and entrepreneurial spirit empowered him to develop many profitable, boundary-defying projects: Peachtree Center in Atlanta, Embarcadero Center in San Francisco, Renaissance Center in Detroit, Marina Square in Singapore, Tomorrow Square in Shanghai, Yintai Centre in Beijing… to name merely a few.
To me, though, I appreciate and admire his most artistic and personal work expressed in the design of his two homes: Entelechy I in Buckhead-Atlanta and Entelechy II in Sea Island, Georgia.
Entelechy I & II represent an artistic conception of pure modernism. While remaining true to a mathematical and logical purity of design expressed through mid-century modernism, Portman has deftly asserted a creative and artistic flair matched by only a few of his peers. While I have not been inside his Atlanta home, I have had the rare privilege of visiting his Sea Island home, Entelechy II. So impressed by this masterpiece, I thought to myself as I left, “Some I have known strive to reach the ultimate house in their minds — the White House — but once at Entelechy II, no other house (or power) would suffice.” Truly, one could spend eternity in this Xanadu of Portman’s.
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Entelechy I (1964)