Interior Urbanism

Interior Urbanism: Architecture, John Portman and Downtown America

by Charles Rice

Charles Rice is Professor of Architecture at the University of Technology Sydney, Australia. He has previously taught at Kingston University London, UK, the Architectural Association, London, UK, and the University of New South Wales, Australia. Rice’s research considers key questions of modern architecture through the interior. His book The Emergence of the Interior: Architecture, Modernity, Domesticity (2007) established the domestic interior as a category of the nineteenth century, charting its impact on key developments in architecture and design into the twentieth century. He is co-editor of The Journal of Architecture (Routledge & RIBA), and has co-edited several collections of essays. His own essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, and he has lectured at universities and cultural institutions internationally. Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

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Bloomsbury Academic, 2016
  • DOI:
  • ISBN:
    978-1-4742-5122-8 (online)

    978-1-4725-8120-4 (hardback)

    978-1-4725-8119-8 (paperback)

    978-1-4725-8122-8 (epdf)

    978-1-4725-8121-1 (epub)
  • Edition:
    First Edition
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Interior Urbanism
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Vast interior spaces have become ubiquitous in the contemporary city. The soaring atriums and concourses of mega-hotels, shopping malls and transport interchanges define an increasingly normal experience of being ‘inside’ in a city. Yet such spaces are also subject to intense criticism and claims that they can destroy the quality of a city’s authentic life ‘on the outside’.

Interior Urbanism explores the roots of this contemporary tension between inside and outside, identifying and analysing the concept of interior urbanism and tracing its history back to the works of John Portman and Associates in 1960s and 70s America. Portman – increasingly recognised as an influential yet understudied figure – was responsible for projects such as Peachtree Center in Atlanta and the Los Angeles Bonaventure Hotel, developments that employed vast internal atriums to define a world of possibilities not just for hotels and commercial spaces, but for the future of the American downtown amid the upheavals of the 1960s and 70s.

The book analyses Portman’s architecture in order to reconsider major contexts of debate in architecture and urbanism in this period, including the massive expansion of a commercial imperative in architecture, shifts in the governance and development of cities amid social and economic instability, the rise of postmodernism and critical urban studies, and the defence of the street and public space amid the continual upheavals of urban development.

In this way the book reconsiders the American city at a crucial time in its development, identifying lessons for how we consider the forces at work, and the spaces produced, in cities in the present.