The Paimio Sanatorium: Architectural Solutions in a Pandemic

At its core, architecture is a response to its surrounding environment. Every space in which we live, work, or play is carefully designed with intention, usually reacting to the wants or needs of the people around them. Oftentimes during a crisis, such as a pandemic, architectural solutions can make the difference between life and death. Located in southwestern Finland, the Paimio Sanatorium epitomizes the crucial part architecture plays in the health and wellness of our communities. 

Terrace of Paimio Sanatorium. Credit: Tiina Rajala on Wikimedia Commons,
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0

Completed in 1932, the Sanatorium was designed to house recovering tuberculosis patients. The building was designed by Alvar Aalto, who won the commission after an architectural competition for the project in 1929. Following Modernist design, Aalto included large windows, roof terraces, and a sleek aesthetic. As per most Modernist structures, function was also a priority. At the time, the only known ‘cure’ for tuberculosis was rest, fresh air and sunshine. The Sanatorium offered just that, with balconies and outdoor spaces for patients to enjoy while recuperating. From easy-to-sanitize surfaces to color choices, Aalto designed the entire building around the needs of patients and staff. 

By the 1950s, antibiotics ushered in the end of the disease, and eventually the Paimio Sanatorium was converted into a general hospital. Today, it stands as a reminder of the power of design, and how it can nurture and inspire change in the world. 

For more information, you can read Cultured Magazine’s full feature on the Paimio Sanatorium here.

The New Architecture: Integrating the Built and Natural Environment

In a recent New York Times article, author Karrie Jacobs wrote that the “hard barriers between the designed environment and the natural one are softening maybe for good.” 

Jacobs went on to say, “Designers today are rebalancing the relationship between architecture and nature, with the goal of increasing the quality of life, especially in urban settings.” 

The NYTimes article features several new and innovative works by global architects who are designing to fuse outdoor and indoor, with structures that are both influenced by and have influence on their environment. We love to see the innovation taking place throughout the architecture world, and the continued conversation surrounding how design can evolve to appreciate nature.

From the beginning, our work at Optima has celebrated this fundamental connection between design and nature as a way of enhancing the human experience. Since our founding in the late 70s, we have been utilizing Modernist design to create homes that are an extension of their environment and integrate nature into the lives of those that live in them.

Sandy Knoll, Optima, Homewood, Illinois
Sandy Knoll, Optima, Homewood, Illinois

One of our first residences, Sandy Knoll, demonstrated how modular housing could integrate a home into a steep, challenging wooded knoll. What resulted was a beautiful home that preserved the integrity and grace of its site, with mature trees and local Illinois vegetation creating the views out of glass-paneled walls. 

Since then, we have continuously challenged ourselves to evolve new ways of incorporating nature into our design. Green space has always been a large component to the communities that we build, and our move to Arizona has only deepened our intimate understanding of landscaping.

Relic Rock, Optima DCHGlobal, Scottsdale, Arizona
Relic Rock, Optima DCHGlobal, Scottsdale, Arizona

Our desert dwellings incorporate the elevation, vegetation and climate of the desert into every facet of design, from bridged courtyards to the materials and colors used for each home’s exterior. Glass curtainwalls also provide uninterrupted, panoramic views of the sweeping landscape, so that the mountains of the desert feel a part of each home.

Optima Sonoran Village, Scottsdale, Arizona
Optima Sonoran Village, Scottsdale, Arizona

In our multifamily work, we incorporate the Optima vertical landscaping system to create protection, privacy and beauty. For us, lush landscaping vertically and horizontally across our communities is an integral part of creating connection – a connection that is both physically inviting and spiritually inviting, as our design seeks to connect people with their surrounding environment.

We look forward to the future, to constantly pushing the boundaries and exploring how to further unify the built and natural environment. We’re excited that the work we do is part of a larger conversation in the architecture world and can’t wait to see what we, and others, do next for architecture and for the earth.

Optima Sculpture Spotlight: Duo

The design of interior space doesn’t end with architecture. A key component to creating engaging environments at Optima is the inclusion of art — particularly sculpture. Optima co-founder David Hovey Sr., FAIA explores new ways of expressing space, form and function through his monumental, three-dimensional sculptures in brilliantly-hued steel, including Duo, ultimately adding a new vibrancy to our carefully curated communities.


Duo at the 7160 Optima Kierland Residence Club, Scottsdale, AZ
Duo at the 7160 Optima Kierland Residence Club, Scottsdale, AZ

Originally created as a large-scale piece, Duo is a striking and abstract silhouette that evokes the image of a man and woman gazing into one another’s eyes. Hovey states that often, he doesn’t approach a piece of steel with the intention of drawing out specific imagery. Rather, he imagines how to explore form and function through the size, shape, voids and shadows, lights and sounds that emanate from the manipulation of the material. With Duo, Hovey sought to craft a study of duality and opposites through curved lines, fierce angles, symmetry and asymmetry. The human-like quality that resulted is part of the intriguing and surprising discovery from the sculpture’s true expression.

Duo now takes many sizes and colors, with one iteration adorning the front desk at Optima Signature in a brilliant pop of red. Not only does the inclusion of sculpture add a new dimension to the spaces that we design, but it allows a new avenue for exploration, discovery and expression.

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