When it opened 50 years ago, the Hyatt Regency on Peachtree Street felt like the architectural embodiment of the Space Age. Visitors—14,000 came one opening weekend—gazed up in awe at the 22-story atrium, designed to provide “spatial relief” from the hassles of air travel and city life. That was according to the hotel’s architect (and developer) John Portman. Visitors sipped cocktails in Le Parasol Lounge under the watch of macaws, parrots, and cock-of-the-rock birds housed in a three-story aviary. Guests queued for a rocket ride in glass elevators—the most expensive of their time—to Polaris, the blue-domed rotating restaurant on the roof. Today, the entrance tunnel is a wall of glass, the aviary is gone, and the fountain was long ago replaced by Richard Lippold’s “Flora Raris” sculpture. But Polaris, which reopened in 2014 after sitting vacant for 10 years, is spinning again, showcasing the downtown that Portman, the city’s most influential architect, helped define.
This article originally appeared in our July 2017 issue.