A spiral staircase cuts through the “collaboration core.” Photo credit: Curbed Atlanta

The world’s tallest spiral staircase opened last month in Atlanta, Georgia! No April Fool’s Day joke here – it’s true! World-renowned and late Atlanta-based architect John Portman Jr. scores again for his ingenuity with the opening of his Coda Building located in Midtown Atlanta near the Georgia Tech University’s campus. This is the first of three new John Portman and Associates-designed office towers set to open. Although he didn’t get to see it finished before he passed away last year, Portman at least knew that his vision for Coda, a futuristic hub for entrepreneurs at Georgia Tech, his alma mater, would become a reality.

Coda is a 21-store, glassy, L-shaped building, that stands between Spring and West Peachtree streets in Midtown Atlanta. It features 645,000 square feet of office space and 22,000 square feet of public-accessible, ground-floor restaurant and retail space. The Portman design was crafted around a goal of interoffice cohesion—and not just for Georgia Tech students and scholars. Georgia Tech leaders were looking for a building “where tech industries can meet the academia that is developing new ideas in the technological environment,” which explains why the school’s spaces intersect by the offices of other tenants.

Coda at Tech Square, Atlanta, Georgia; Photo credit: Curbed Atlanta

Where both wings of the Coda tower unite, a 16-floor cylindrical protrusion houses the “collaboration core,” which is comprised of six three-story atria—the top atrium is slightly shorter—skewered by the world’s tallest spiral staircase. The collaboration core is wrapped in electrodynamic glass. Elsewhere on the site: a bulky 80,000-square-foot data center, which tenants will utilize for high-speed computing.

Coda contains North America’s first “twin-cab elevators,” designed by Thyssenkrupp. Two elevator cabs inside the same shaft move independently of one another allowing users to select which floor they’re headed to before entering the elevator. The system calculates how best to move the groups of people. (In some cases, it will dock a cab at the bottom of the shaft, if the computer decides that’s the most efficient way to proceed.)

Given the synergy with one of the most advanced technological schools in the world, it’s no wonder that researchers in the Georgia Tech IMAGINE Lab didn’t have to wait for brick and steel to start being laid or watch a “construction cam” on a website to envision the possibilities for the new building. They were able to use their expertise in digital imaging, 3D modeling, and augmented reality technologies to create Tech Square in a digital model that included Coda in its earliest concept. In 2015, the IMAGINE Lab, part of the Center for Spatial Planning Analytics and Visualization in the College of Design, was tasked by stakeholders at the Institute to create a pilot project for a quick visual tool for planning the future Coda building.

No single architect shaped Atlanta’s skyline like Portman, who gave Atlanta the Hyatt Regency, Peachtree Center, AmericasMart and the Westin Peachtree Plaza hotel. He also left his stamp from San Francisco to Shanghai, and helped revitalize Times Square with his famed New York Marriott Marquis.