One of the ways we honor the Forever Modern promise and keep it relevant at Optima is by curating both public and residential spaces in our communities with timeless furniture. Take a stroll through any of our Optima communities and you will find the Table E-1027 in beautiful settings of pristine Modernist furniture. Let’s take a closer look.
Table E-1027 is an adjustable steel and glass table designed by Irish designer Eileen Gray in 1927. Originally created for her home in the south of France by the same name, the table has since become one of Gray’s most famous designs.
The table’s design celebrates the simplicity of Modernist ideals of form and function. The table consists of two concentric forms of tubular stainless steel that are joined by two vertical tubes to adjust the height — with one of the forms serving as an adjustable arm and tempered glass functioning as the table’s surface. The story behind the design is that Gray originally conceived it for her sister, who routinely ate breakfast in bed. With a traylike surface that could be positioned comfortably over the bed, her sister could enjoy her morning routine while avoiding dropping crumbs on the linens.
Without question, Table E-1027 is one of Gray’s most famous pieces, even though she was a prolific designer. In the decades since it became available commercially, Table E-1027 has come to represent the epitome of Modernist design. It is multipurpose, adjustable and portable. It works just as well in a bedroom as in a living room or sitting area. And finally, it brings refinement and tastefulness to any interior setting.
At Optima, we’re proud to include Table E-1027 in a host of spaces and arrangements for our residents and their visitors to enjoy.
At Optima, we celebrate the fundamental connection between design and nature. It’s this philosophy that often inspires the design in our communities, including our newest, Optima Lakeview. One of Optima Lakeview’s most exceptional features is the stunning natural stone that lines the first floor. Today, we’re taking a closer look at a classic architectural material, natural stone.
The History of Natural Stone in Architecture
Stone is a timeless material used in some of the world’s most admired architectural works and monuments, from the Colosseum to the Washington Monument. The centuries-old resource, dating back nearly 12,000 years, has found its use in nearly all aspects of architecture and remains relevant today.
In its early use, quarried stone was utilized to create walls, columns and piers. For centuries, entire cities were made of stone, making it an essential building resource. As technology advanced and more sophisticated construction methods metamorphosed, stone began appearing in archways, windows, facades and other stunning building accents.
With time, materials like iron and concrete became an easy replacement for natural stone in architecture and helped to allow the construction of skyscrapers in the 19th and 20th centuries. The natural resource then became a popular staple for exteriors and cladding exclusively. However, today, architects are again embracing stone in full force, and it’s found on everything from kitchen tables to living room walls.
Natural Stone in Optima
Each of Optima’s Illinois communities — Optima Lakeview, Optima Signature and the in-progress Optima Verdana — feature one-of-a-kind granite flooring throughout their main levels. Granite, which is only one of many natural stones used in Optima Communities, perfectly compliments Optima’s commitment to artistry and elevated living, amplifying each atmosphere housing the stone.
We embrace the organic here at Optima, which is why you can find more than just granite in most of our communities. Other uses of natural stones include stunning, polished quartz and granite for kitchen and bathroom finishes throughout our communities and even in Optima Kierland’s courtyard’s sparkling water feature.
Even after a millennium of use, architects and designers continue to discover new adoptions for natural stone in buildings today, making it a timeless staple of the architecture world.
With our deep connection to Modernist furniture and designers, it’s no wonder that we continue to gravitate to the classic beauty of Arne Jacobsen’s Pot™ as an essential seating element in the public spaces within Optima communities.
Jacobsen, the prolific Danish designer of the Egg Chair and the Swan Chair, also created the Pot™ in 1959 for the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. In 2018 the Pot™ was relaunched with a fresh take on Jacobsen’s lounge chair, revitalized for the modern interior; the original design has been preserved, but the seat and materials have been reconsidered to offer fresh options in both fabrics and leathers.
Originally, the Pot™ decorated both the Orchid Bar and Winter Garden in the SAS Royal Hotel, Copenhagen’s first high-rise. Alongside Jacobson’s other furniture designs in the Royal Hotel, including the Swan and Egg chairs, he exclusively utilized the Pot™ to complement the organic aesthetic found in the Orchid Bar and Winter Garden. The chair was also placed on every floor in the hotel across from the elevators to function as a recognizable meeting point.
In its original conception, the Pot™ was a quiet design, meant to mimic a leaf floating in the air. And while the shape has a compact quality, it is both comfortable and spacious.
Be on the lookout for the ways we have incorporated this timeless gem into our lobbies and other social spaces next time you visit an Optima Community!
Community means everything to us at Optima, which is why we bring thoughtful design to each project, committed to supporting and uplifting every resident. Historically, architecture has been a dominant tool for many to build and sustain communities, and recently, community architecture has taken on a more prominent role in the discourse surrounding living environments. Learn more about community architecture and some of the practice’s most visionary examples below:
What is Community Architecture?
Community architecture is a collaborative building experience between both an architect and the users of the built space. The movement originated in the mid-20th century when architects across the world began to see that people wanted more say in shaping what they lived in and how they lived.
Because it was such a radical idea at its inception, some architects who took charge of the movement experienced ridicule. Minette de Silva, in particular, was unsupported in her efforts to build Sri Lanka’s first Public Housing Project in collaboration with its residents. The result, however, was a triumphant success, like many other community architecture projects across the world.
What originated as a mere art project in 2011 has turned into one of the world’s most functional community-built projects. The intricate design behind the main building, the bakehouse, operates as a place of creative production and a gathering space for communal interactions.
The structure appears still under construction or repair, but the wooden skeleton and window-filled walls intentionally mimic the past. Both the structure’s versatile purpose and its boat-like canopy design are odes to the country’s rich history, reflecting on the cultural significance of Bakehouses and maritime history.
From serving as a hunting ground for the indigenous Osage nation to being transformed into a cheese factory, the land on which The Momentary resides in Bentonville, Arkansas, has a long, rich history. Today, however, the land is home to the adaptive reuse art museum. The original structure – which is still 80% preserved – was completed in 1947, and, with the help of Wheeler Kearns Architects, the newly constructed museum finished construction in 2020.
Instead of trying to gloss camouflage the branches of history rooted in The Momentary’s land, they intentionally embraced them, designing an accessible hub that supports community members through cultural programming, education, engagement and enjoyment.
In 2020, The Night Ministry – an organization encompassing health care, housing, outreach and other social services – welcomed its new home, also designed by Wheeler Kearns Architects, in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood. The former manufacturing facility became transformed into the organization’s headquarters and is home to their overnight shelter, The Crib.
Parts of the original manufacturing facility were repurposed to reduce waste when constructing the new headquarters, including flooring, windows and heavy timber. Vibrant murals around the interior alongside multipurpose programming spaces and a communal kitchen and dining space also help to reflect the collaborative nature The Night Ministry displays.
The best architecture attracts people and allows them to feel a true sense of ownership of their living environment. And, because more and more architects are discovering the importance of doing just that in their projects, community architecture shows no signs of slowing down.
Although many know expressionism for its evocative poetry and painting, expressionist architecture was also a subsect of the Modernist Movement. While coexisting with the minimalist rigor of the Bauhaus, this avant-garde style allowed designers to explore new, radical perspectives, gifting to the world some of the most dynamic, expressive architecture of the 20th century.
Origins of Expressionism
Expressionism originated in the late 1800s from a small group of artists based in Germany. The artists who founded the movement felt that 19th-century impressionism – which commanded the art world – was out of touch with the social climate of the times due to the various changes that came with the Industrial Revolution. This feeling of detachment helped inspire what would soon be known as expressionism.
Acclaimed painters like Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Edvard Munch and Francis Bacon all contributed remarkable works of art throughout the movement, but artists who worked with other mediums also adopted the ideals that expressionists held close. Because of the vivid colors and distorted lines and angles associated with expressionism, German cinematography, in particular, took advantage of the moody standards.
After more than 30 years of commanding the art world itself, expressionists became banned from showing and selling their work in Germany, where the majority of the artists lived. The result left many artists suppressed, eventually leading to various radical movements, including Abstract Expressionism, Pop-Art, Minimalism and in the late 20th century, Neo-Expressionism.
Expressionism in Architecture
Expressionist architecture took advantage of the many characteristics associated with the movement’s other works of art, including distortion of form, themes of romanticism, expression of inner experience and the conception of architecture as a work of art, among others. Much of the movement’s builds featured Gothic, Romanesque and Rococo affinities.
Bruno Taut’s Glass Pavilion is one of the earliest examples of expressionist architecture. The structure was built in 1914 as a feature of the Cologne Deutscher Werkbund Exhibition. Constructed using only concrete and glass, the exterior of the pavilion showcases a vibrantly colored prismatic dome and a grand staircase. The interior of the building featured a kaleidoscope of color from the crown above it and a seven-tiered cascading waterfall.
The Einstein Tower is another striking example of expressionist-style architecture. The observatory was built by German Architect Erich Mendelsohn from 1919 to 1921 and was envisioned to hold a solar telescope. Mendelsohn designed the building to reflect the radical theories formed by Einstein – specifically his theory of motion. The structure is built with brick but covered with stucco to give it its smooth, tidal-like exterior.
More recent examples of expressionist-style architecture include Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry in Los Angeles, the Lotus Temple designed by Fariborz Sahba in Delhi, and Zaha Hadid’s Vitra Fire Station in Weil am Rhein.
As with all of the exquisitely curated furniture selections at Optima, the focus is always on comfort and functionality, timeless minimalist design, flawless engineering and superb materials The NOOMI chair, the brainchild of renowned Danish designer, Susanne Grønlund, is no exception, and fits handsomely into the interior spaces of our latest development, Optima Lakeview.
Since 1991, Grønlund and her studio in Aarhaus, Denmark have earned a reputation for innovative, thoughtful design that’s rooted in Scandinavian traditions. In creating her Noomi Swivel chair in 2013, she set out to combine aesthetics with practicality. Recognizing that people want to sit comfortably AND easily turn to speak to others in an intimate setting, Grønlund designed a soothing, smooth-swiveling chair on a 360-degree base.
With references to branches on a tree, the delicate and slightly bent legs seize the upper part of the NOOMI Chair and create a strong graphic expression where steel and fabric meet in harmony. The frame is light, but distinctive with an elegant humanly-contoured shape that makes the soft, rounded upper part of the chair — with its strong backrest and traditional manual padding — look like it’s hovering above the floor.
With the focus on form and function, Grønlund took great pains to ensure maximum comfort with the NOOMI Chair. The angle of the backrest to the seat has been carefully resolved, and the wide armrests are comfortable. The chair invites various sitting positions as it signals the priorities of comfort and rest.
With such flawless design, it isn’t a surprise that the NOOMI chair has garnered a number of awards, including the Good Design® Award (2017) and German Design Award (2018).
We’re not only happy to have NOOMIs welcoming residents in Optima Lakeview but in many of our other communities at Optima, where the ideals of form and function continue to inspire all of us.
As part of our ongoing “Women in Architecture” series, we’re spotlighting an often overlooked contributor to the Modernist Movement, Lilly Reich. Popularly known for being a close confidant and collaborator of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Reich was a spearhead of the times in her own right, contributing many acclaimed designs that are still prominent today. Learn more about her extraordinary life and work below:
The Life of Lilly Reich
Lilly Reich was born on June 16, 1885, in Berlin, Germany. Throughout her childhood and early adult life, many of her interests belonged to the arts and crafts, specifically embroidery. At 23 years old, Reich traveled from Germany to Vienna, Italy, where she found work at Josef Hoffman’s visual arts production company. Reich continued to explore her passion for embroidery in Vienna, and thanks to the many other artists and designers who worked with her, she eventually discovered new mediums, including textile, clothing, and even designing store windows.
In 1911, Reich returned to her home in Berlin, where she was determined to find a career. Less than a year after moving back, she became a member of the Deutscher Werkbund, or German Work Federation. After shifting her design focus from textile and clothing to other forms of design like furniture and interiors, Reich’s professional reputation quickly blew up. And, in 1920, after eight years in the Deutscher Werkbund, she became the first woman elected to its governing board.
Reich was working at Frankfurt’s Trade Fair Office in 1924 when she first met Mies. They immediately formed a connection that sparked a decades-long period of collaboration between the two. Continuing her dominance in design at the time, Reich became the creative director for Germany’s contribution to the Barcelona World Expo in 1929. The Expo’s most notorious contribution included the Barcelona Chair, which was designed by Mies and Riech respectively. Reich and Mies continued collaborating until his emigration to the United States in 1938.
The Work of Lilly Reich
Reich’s ambition and adaptability also carried over into her career. While working with Mies, Reich designed several furniture series of tubular steel – one of the only women doing so at the time besides Charlotte Perriand. Inspired by the modern technology and materials of the time, she contrasted the coolness of steel with warm materials such as wood and leather – a staple of her creations. The furniture designs included everything from chairs and tables to bed frames and day beds.
Reich’s contribution to interior design expanded beyond furniture. In 1931, for the German Building Expo in Berlin, she embraced the ideals of domestic reformers of the time and designed Apartment for a Single Person. A radical idea for the time period, the design featured a cooking cabinet that took the appearance of a closet. However when opened, it revealed a sink, shelves, drawers and plenty of counter space.
As a woman in her field during the early 20th century, Lilly Reich found a way to break traditional barriers and establish herself as a leader of the Modernist Movement. Whether collaborating with other visionaries like Mies or contributing her own ambitious designs, Reich always found a way to leave her mark on society, securing a legacy few can achieve.
Throughout history, architecture has taken various shapes and forms, influenced by the rich context that surrounds each creation. As technology advances and philosophies continue to evolve, so do the characteristics of architecture and its landscape. Today, we’re feeding our curiosity about a fresh vision for the future of architecture that embraces the decentralized principles of Web3, the construction of digital landscapes in the Metaverse.
Coined by American author Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snowcrash, the Metaverse was conceived as the successor to the Internet and establishes Stephenson’s vision of what a digital world in the near future resembles. Today, the Metaverse is broadly defined as a fully-realized digital world that exists beyond the analog world we live in and refers to a variety of virtual experiences, environments and assets.
While the Metaverse is a far-reaching landscape, the freedom and encouragement to creatively innovate leaves everyone, from amateur designs to adept architects, an enormously untapped environment to build new worlds.
Architecture in the Metaverse exhibits everything from fully-realized cities to intimate digital houses to virtual furniture pieces. Since the Metaverse is decentralized, meaning no one person or entity has control over the network, users have the ability to shape their 3D surroundings in any way imaginable.
The majority of the digital creations in the Metaverse exist as NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, which certifies them as totally unique, in turn assigning them value. While NFTs are more generally associated with digital assets such as images, GIFs, songs and videos, they can also include forms of digital architecture, artwork and even land.
In March 2021, Krista Kim sold the Metaverse’s first NFT-backed digital home, Mars House. Designed entirely by Kim, the virtual design which overlooks a mountain range mirrors her philosophy of meditative design. Color gradients ranging from fuchsia to turquoise fill the open-plan design and help characterize the house as a ‘light sculpture’ as Kim defines it.
Other famous architectural designs in the Metaverse include Andrés Reisinger and Alba de la Fuente’s modernist Winter House, Bjarke Ingels Group’s Viceverse office space and Zaha Hadid Architects’ virtual city, Liberland Metaverse.
Although fully digitized, architecture in the Metaverse is created with the same inspiration used in the construction of traditional architecture. And as the world and architectural landscape continue to change around us, more and more designers and architects will continue to find opportunities in virtual landscapes, constructing digital assets with a similar passion, vision and thoughtfulness found in the designs that surround us here on Earth.
Offering more than 60 acres of breathtaking lakefront views and an array of thrilling activities on and off of its beaches, Wilmette’s Gillson Park is a local treasure. Located less than two miles from Optima Verdana, future residents will have access to one of the city’s oldest and most beloved stretches of public land. Today, we’re exploring the fascinating history behind Gillson Park.
Nearly as old as the village itself, Wilmette’s Gillson Park was established in 1908 as Washington Park. The land sitting directly on Lake Michigan was originally used as a depot where clay from the North Shore Channel was placed after excavation. After becoming the first president of the Wilmette Park District that same year, Louis K. Gillson began devising how he could make the most out of Wilmette’s vast greenspace.
Until 1915, the land existed merely as a plot of blue clay. However, in 1917, under Gillson’s leadership, the Wilmette Park District began its ambitious project to transform the area into a recreational hotspot. Shortly after, the Park Board hired landscape architect and engineer, Benjamin Gage, to elevate the park’s design.
Following extensive additions contributed by Gage in the 1920s — as well as doubling the park’s size — the Park Board began to search for architects who would help conceive a new, sweeping plan for the greenspace. And, in the mid-1930s, they hired landscape architects C.D. Wagstaff and Robert Everly to lead the project.
Their sweeping design proposal helped transform the once clay-filled plot into a vibrant landscape with a host of recreational features. Wagstaff and Everly were also heavily inspired by the prominent Prairie School architecture that dominated the area, and specifically by the work of landscape architect, Jens Jensen.
There were numerous prairie-style elements added to the park, including stratified stone walls and steps, a stone council ring, curvilinear roadways and paths, and a host of informal gardens. The architectural team also designed one of the park’s most iconic spaces, the Wallace Bowl, which is a large open-air amphitheater situated in the park.
Today, the Wilmette Park District is still home to the Prairie-style elements contributed by Wagstaff and Everly and remains a greenspace treasured by all of the village’s residents. To explore more of the park’s history or discover the various recreational activities, visit their website here.
Art and architecture share a rich, timeless connection rooted in their design, creators and intended meaning. Both forms of expression become envisioned and constructed through similar principles, visual elements and ambition to engage with one’s senses. Today, we’re exploring this essential relationship and what happens when the two worlds collide.
David Hovey Sr., FAIA, Optima’s CEO and Founder, says it best when describing the linkage between art – in particular, sculptures – and architecture, saying that “architecture is about function, as well as aesthetics, while sculpture is really just about aesthetics.”
Architecture is traditionally informed by functionality first, with aesthetics coming into play as with a significant role. Art, on the other hand, is commonly guided by aesthetics, without any burdens to deliver an object or outcome that is functional. However, both forms of expression are typically influenced by similar social and political factors that affect the environment surrounding the work or structure.
Centuries-old cultural movements, including the Renaissance, where art imitated life and vice versa, demonstrate the linkage between art and architecture. However, it wasn’t until the Avant-Garde movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries that the integration of the two took a new meaning.
This integration between the disciplines quickly became a core characteristic of modernism and modernist design, and is distinctly present in the work of some of the greatest architects and artists of the time period. Because artists use their art as a tool to shape emotions, modernism emerged as an expectation in which art and architecture would provide a new value when combined.
The Bauhaus Movement was one of the first to introduce this idea, encouraging the unification of all arts and coupling aesthetics with the technology of the time. Notably, this ideology was cultivated through Le Corbusier’s use of painting and sculpture within his established concepts of architecture. Le Corbusier also argued that it was of equal importance to architects, painters and sculpturists to contribute constructive collaborations to the world by designing and creating in harmony with one another.
Along with Le Corbusier, various other artists throughout the past century have tried to synthesize art and architecture throughout their work, particularly Oscar Niemeyer, Mies van der Rohe and Zaha Hadid. Today, architects and artists continue to collaborate and integrate their disciplines more than ever, exploring and expanding the dynamic relationship shared between the two.