This is the terminal: the light
Gives perfect vision, false and hard;
The metal glitters, deep and bright.
Great planes are waiting in the yard—
They are already in the night.
And you are here beside me, small,
Contained and fragile, and intent
On things that I but half recall—
Yet going whither you are bent.
I am the past, and that is all.
But you and I in part are one:
The frightened brain, the nervous will,
The knowledge of what must be done,
The passion to acquire the skill
To face that which you dare not shun.
The rain of matter upon sense
Destroys me momently. The score:
There comes what will come. The expense
Is what one thought, and something more—
One’s being and intelligence.
This is the terminal, the break.
Beyond this point, on lines of air,
You take the way that you must take;
And I remain in light and stare—
In light, and nothing else, awake.
John Portman is also responsible for single-handedly perfecting a device that spread from Atlanta to the rest of America, and from America to the rest of the world (even Europe): he (re)invented the atrium. Since the Romans, the atrium had been a hole in the house or building that injects light and air - the outside - into the center; in Portman’s hands it became the opposite: a container of artificiality that allows its occupants to avoid daylight forever - a hermetic interior, sealed against the real. … The new atrium became a replica as inclusive as downtown itself, an ersatz downtown. Downtown’s buildings are no longer complementary: they don’t need each other; they become hostile; they compete. Downtown disintegrates into multiple downtowns, a cluster of autonomies. The more ambitious the autonomies, the more they undermine the real downtown - its messy conditions, its complexities, its irregularities, its densities, its ethnicities. With atriums as their private mini-centers, buildings no longer depend on specific locations. They can be anywhere. And if they can be anywhere, why should the be downtown? At first the atrium seemed to help rehabilitate and stabilize Atlanta’s downtown, but it actually accelerated its demise.