Grace A. Tan, 1960-2019

The office of John Portman & Associates in Atlanta and Shanghai lost their dynamic and determined president of 18 years, Grace A. Tan, AIA, who died unexpectedly on January 27, 2019 at age 58. Grace was born in the Philippines and started her architectural career there. She joined John Portman & Associates as a junior architect shortly after receiving a Master of Architecture from Ohio State University. She later received a Master of Design Studies from Harvard University. Grace marked her 34th anniversary of work at the firm in 2019. Grace’s commitment was unwavering. She endeavored to strengthen and grow the firm throughout her tenure, encouraged by her mentor, futuristic architect John C. Portman, Jr. In 1993, Grace helped Jack Portman, the firm’s current chairman, to establish the Shanghai office. Portman was the first firm to lead the wave of western architects driving unparalleled development and design in China. Grace was incredibly effective as a multi-lingual architect and planner, in obtaining commissions by working with Chinese owners, government and officials.

Her work was integral in allowing the firm to create iconic Chinese destinations, including Shanghai Centre, Shanghai Arch, Beijing SilverTie Center, and Tomorrow Square, among many others. As president of John Portman & Associates, based in Atlanta, Grace worked strategically and operationally to grow the firm; attract and retain top design talent, and participate in and win global competitions. She fostered a team spirit within a global firm that proudly cultivates diversity and gender parity across its practice. Grace Tan was awarded the Top Asian in Business accolade in 2012, among 50 leaders nationally. “Grace was exacting; kind but firm, consistently working to ensure that we stay on point. She had a unique, indeed graceful, manner of persuasion,” says Jack Portman, “she helped make us better, always.

She was greatly respected and will be missed here and around the world.” A service will be held by Grace Tan’s family, friends, and colleagues in Atlanta at a future date.