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.
As Modernism and its influence spread across the world in the early 1900s, new art and design factions emerged throughout cultures. Today, we’re exploring Constructivism, a Russian art and architecture movement that brought abstraction to the country. Learn more about the short-lived, industrial-heavy movement below:
The History of Constructivism
Constructivism popularized in the 1910s Soviet Union, the same period that the Bauhaus and De Stijl movements emerged across Eastern Europe. Constructivism was largely inspired by other modern, innovative developments of the time, specifically Bauhaus and Russian Futurism.
Constructivist artists strived to reflect the industrialization of urban society in their work. The movement’s art and architectural works combined characteristics from existing modern principles such as geometric and minimal design, with a more experimental approach.
Often staying away from ornate decorative elements, Constructivist architecture instead favored mechanical and industrial materials. This design direction also focused on space and rhythm, frequently resulting in futuristic and abstract-presenting structures.
Arguably the most well-known and famous Constructivist architectural work was the 1919 proposal of Tatlin’s Tower by Vladimir Tatlin. The project, which was never completed, intended to use iron, glass and steel in its design. As a towering symbol of modernity, its main feature included a twin helix — reaching taller than the Eiffel Tower — paired with four other suspended geometric structures that planned to rotate around the helix.
One of the main philosophies of Constructivism was to instill new aesthetics of the avant-garde into everyday life, which led architects to design some of the country’s most visited buildings in their unique style. The Zuev Workers’ Club in Moscow was one of many workers’ clubs to adopt the Constructivist style when completed in 1929. The composition of the building’s facade features a mix of circular staircases, stacked rectangular floors, bright pink paint and an exterior glazed treatment which was innovative for the time.
Another famous work of Constructivism is Ogonyok Magazine’s printing plant which was commissioned in 1932 in Moscow. Russian artist El Lissitzky designed the building, and it remained his only architectural creation. The dynamic building features a mansard roof and circular windows that contrast the long rectangular exterior. Although damaged in a 2008 fire, the building remains a heritage site, and in 2012 it was named a regional landmark of the country.
Although Constructivism lost steam only a decade after emerging, its influence is found in other movements like Brutalism, and works of graphic design, industrial design, fashion, and ultimately the Deconstructivism Movement. Stay tuned for more blogs spotlighting the many subsects of Modernist architecture!
As part of our ongoing “Women in Architecture” series, we’re spotlighting someone who was at the forefront of architectural experimentation in the mid-twentieth century, Anne Tyng. Tyng pioneered the inclusion of complex geometry as a source for form in architecture and design and became an expert in the field. Learn more about her extraordinary life and work below:
The Life of Anne Tyng
Anne Griswold Tyng was born in Lushan, Jiangxi province, China, on July 14, 1920. Although her family lived in China at the time, their roots traced back to the Massachusetts Bay colonies, and they frequently visited the United States for family trips. Tyng’s love for design sparked when she was just a child, and she often recalled how she would carve whole cities out of the soft stone surrounding her family’s properties.
At 18, Tyng moved permanently to the U.S., where she attended Radcliffe College in Cambridge, MA, to study fine arts. During her final year, however, she discovered the Cambridge School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture — the first institution to provide design training to women only — and began taking classes there.
After her graduation in 1942, she went on to further her architecture studies at Harvard, studying with renowned architects like Marcel Breuer and Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius. In 1944, Tyng was among the first women to complete their studies at Harvard, and later she became the only woman to enter the architecture licensing exam in 1949. Tyng finished her education nearly 30 years later when she was awarded a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.
In 1945, Tyng moved to Philadelphia and began working for Louis Kahn’s architecture firm, Stonorov and Kahn. Khan and Tyng became close collaborators, and her passion for geometric form influenced many of the firm’s designs of the time. In 1964, she left the firm, where she had been a partner, and began developing more solo projects until the end of her career.
Notable Work and Achievements
Although she became a successful architect, Tyng was also passionate about mathematics. Thanks to the versatility and flexibility of architecture, this allowed her to conflate her interests and focus on space frame architecture — creating light-filled spaces using interlocking geometric forms of architecture.
Many of Tyng’s earliest works can be traced back to the influences she left in Kahn’s designs, including the Yale University Art Center (1953), Philadelphia City Tower (1957) and the Trenton Bath House (1956), all of which included triangles or cubes in their forms. However, her former residence, the Tyng House, is where her personal style is most celebrated.
Built in the 1950s, the single-family home features slotted windows, a pyramidal timber-framed ceiling and metal screened openwork staircases. And although the exterior of the house appears ordinary at first, a closer look reveals a mansard roof and large parlor-floor windows.
In the late 1960s, after falling in love with Maine’s Mount Desert Island, Tyng designed the Four-Poster House. In her design, Tyng took inspiration from the surrounding ecology, and she strived to make the home an organic outgrowth of the wooded area. Using logs, cedar shake and tree trunks, the house was framed similar to a four-poster bed with four central columns.
Alongside her transformative work, Tyng has been a recipient of many architecture awards and achievements, including:
First woman licensed as an architect in the state of Pennsylvania
Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, 1975
Academician of the National Academy of Design, 1975
Selected by the United States to participate in the First International Congress of Women Architects, 1976
Tyng’s career was devoted to understanding the synthesis of geometrical shape and human consciousness within architecture, and because of her extraordinary contributions, the spatial potential of architecture was pushed further than ever before.
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.
Known for his unique approach to architecture, Paolo Soleri brought the philosophy of arcology to numerous of Arizona’s most stunning environments. In Cosanti, he welcomed his otherworldly construction elements to the surroundings of Scottsdale. Today, we’re spotlighting another of the architect’s treasures, which embraces all of Soleri’s design principles on a much grander scale, Arcosanti.
Inception of Arcosanti
Following the completion of his first build, Cosanti, Soleri began to explore more behind the meaning of arcology – a word he coined himself to label if design philosophy. What he began to discover was just how significant ecologically sound human habitats were to the ideology.
In 1970, following the release of his book Arcology: The City in the Image of Man, in which he detailed the concept of cities embodying the fusion of architecture and ecology, Soleri began developing his own planned city, Cosanti. The project – found roughly 70 miles North of Scottsdale – was built to exhibit how urban environments can be elevated while minimizing negative impacts on the surroundings.
Arcosanti is built on 25 acres of a 6.25 square mile property, and though originally planned to house 5,000 people, the community is home to a population that varies from 100 to 150 throughout the year. Because the planned city is ever-changing, construction and development continue today due to the many students and volunteers who call it home.
The magnificent community currently consists of 13 major structures, ranging in size and purpose and featuring diverse design features unique to the town. One particular feature is the site-cast tilt-up concrete panels used to support various buildings, expressing similar patterns to the earth around them, some even cast in embedded art.
Other attentive design features include the southward orientation of most buildings designed to capture the most natural light and an apse – similar to Cosanti’s – built to house the community’s bronze bell-casting space.
The city also features essential builds intentionally placed to help the community thrive, including two barrel vaults, apartment residences, an outdoor amphitheater, a community swimming pool, an office complex and a lush greenhouse.
Today, Arcosanti continues to fulfill Soleri’s vision as an educational center for upcoming architects and philosophers. Scholars from across the world choose the community to attend advanced workshops and classes on everything from experimental design to architectural agriculture.
Nearly 40,000 tourists visit the unique community annually to witness Soleri’s philosophy of arcology in person. Visitors can take guided tours through the sweeping campus or stay overnight in one of its lavish guest accommodations. To plan your trip to the historic community, or learn more about its events and programming, visit Arcosanti’s website here.
Women continue to make giant strides in architecture today, contributing to some of the most celebrated designs in the world. Historically however, many trailblazing women and their designs became overlooked and overshadowed. Today, we’re spotlighting a pioneer of tropical-modern design in Southern Asia, Minnette de Silva.
Minnette de Silva’s Life & Career
De Silva was born on February 1, 1918, in Kandy, Ceylon – present-day Sri Lanka. Her father, George E. de Silva, was the President of the Ceylon’s National Congress and was a well-known politician. Her mother, Agnes Nell, was an activist who pushed for universal suffrage throughout the country. As a child, de Silva attended school overseas in England, spending much of her youth away from her family. However, when home, her family would frequently visit the architecture of ancient Sri Lankan cultures, influencing her profoundly.
Because she wasn’t able to study architecture in Sri Lanka, de Silva convinced her father to allow her to attend Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy School of Art in Mumbai, India. Coming into the country with no previous architecture experience forced de Silva to learn the trade through apprenticeship and additional schooling at the Architecture Academy Mumbai before she was able to attend Sir J.J. School of Art.
After being expelled from the academy in 1942, de Silva started working under emigre architect Otto Königsberger designing prefabricated housing in Bihar, India. And not long after, through connections back home, she was admitted to the Royal Institute of British Architects, where she built relationships with some of the world’s most inspiring architects.
After Sri Lanka’s independence in 1948, de Silva’s father insisted she come home and contribute to the growth of her home country. So, de Silva moved back into her parents’ house with no money to her name and opened her studio – one of only two studios in the world named after the woman they were owned by at the time.
While back in Sri Lanka, de Silva developed her unique architecture style, influenced by a mixture of the traditional architecture she grew up with and the modern builds she was exposed to outside of her home country. In hopes of becoming exposed herself, de Silva began designing everything she could from small cottages to luxurious villas.
Notable Works & Achievements
Her first build was the Karunaratne House, built for family friends from 1949 to 1950. At the time of completion, the house was the first building in the country completed by a woman and received much attention and controversy. The house was an exhibition of Silva’s design philosophy. Featuring woven Dumbara mats used as interior door paneling, clay tiles fired with ancient patterns and a custom mural in the living room designed by local artist George Keyt.
De Silva’s next build, Pieris House, was another commissioned home for family friends, this time in the country’s capital, Columbo. The open plan echoed traditional Sri Lankan architecture with a courtyard incorporated into its living room, which became a hallmark of de Silva’s designs. The house also featured one-of-a-kind patterned tiles and railings lacquered in gold leaf prints.
One of her later but most acclaimed builds came in 1958 for Kandy’s Public Housing Project. The ambitious project had de Silva conduct extensive research and interviews with various house seekers in the city to uncover each of their unique lifestyles. She then used the information she received to curate and design custom housing types for each family – some families even assisting her throughout the process.
While today this approach to design is celebrated, at the time, de Silva’s prospect was suspect and left unsupported. However, she knew the ultimate success would lay in whether the homeowners felt their environments were accessible to their lifestyles. The project eventually became a huge success and quickly became a model used throughout the country, encouraging the boom of strong mixed cultural communities in Sri Lanka.
De Silva was awarded the Gold Medal by the Sri Lanka Institute of Architecture in 1996. She championed a new, inspired vision in Sri Lanka, mixing modernism with the traditional design elements that excited her growing up. Even though few of her buildings survive today, her legacy as a pioneer of tropical-modernism remains.
Chicago has always had a deep relationship with the unique architecture that has filled the city. And as we continue to add our own mark throughout Chicago with our forward-facing architecture, we love to look back on the iconic builds that have shaped the city’s culture since its founding. Today, we’re exploring one of the city’s most recognizable – although often forgotten – designs, the Chicago bungalow.
Chicago saw a dramatic boom in its population in the early 20th century. From 1910 to 1930, the city added more than one million residents. Black Americans and rural-to-urban migrants were rushing to Chicago in hopes of finding a job in one of the many industries dominating the city.
As Chicago’s population continued to grow, the older neighborhoods located near Lake Michigan became increasingly dense, encouraging investors to buy land on the open prairies found on the city’s edge. Architects quickly began developing adaptations of the traditional bungalow to better fit the size of Chicago’s lots and the weather that comes with the midwest.
The trend’s popularity gained momentum quickly, and the Chicago bungalow dominated the city’s residential architecture for the next three decades. By 1930, more than 80,000 bungalows surrounded the city, building a linkage to the city’s communities from Lincoln Square to South Chicago.
Constructed With Pride
At the time, the Chicago bungalow was the manifestation of the American dream for middle-class migrants and immigrants in the city. The homes were heavily inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement and featured thoughtful craftsmanship and simplicity throughout their design.
Specific design elements separated bungalows from other residential builds and helped them become one of the most recognizable architectural styles throughout the city. Each home featured red, brown, yellow or orange bricks and large windows to draw in an abundance of natural light. Hipped roofs helped shape the one-and-a-half-story houses, and porches were included to create a seamless transition from the residences to the tree-lined streets at their footing.
Chicago bungalows also contained modern amenities for the time, which included central heating, electricity and plumbing, but were affordable to build, with costs from $5,000 to $7,500. While the iconic style fell out of vogue later in the century, they still hold a significant place in the city’s architectural story. As the builds turn 100 years old, many residents are realizing the importance the dwellings have played in Chicago’s culture.
Illinois’ Department of Housing created the Chicago Bungalow Association to foster more appreciation for the historic buildings through various financial and educational resources, including how-to’s for restorations and energy retrofits. Owners of the single-family homes are eligible to apply for membership and benefits on the association’s website here.
Modernist design not only inspires our work at Optima but, for decades, has also inspired the work of countless other architects and movements across the world. It’s always a delight to explore how Modernist design translates through the influences of other cultures. Today, we’re delving into the rich connections between Modernism and African architecture.
Beginning in the early 20th century, the Modernist Movement traversed the world, leaving its mark on various cultures and countries. Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier became pioneers of the movement, and numerous other architects quickly became inspired by their unique perspectives. However, even with its momentum, the movement’s journey to African architecture was prolonged.
From 1957 to 1966, many African nations declared independence from the European colonizers that ruled them for nearly one hundred years. With this newfound independence, many African countries became inspired by the freedom that came with Modernist design. As elected governments started forming, architecture quickly became an asset to them, and hundreds of Modernist wonders flourished, frequently overlooked by the rest of the world.
Even though Africa’s countries had vast differences in their culture and economics, they all shared aspirations for modernity – specifically through architecture – and each created an identity of their own. And by the mid-20th century, everything from educational to ceremonial builds filled with rich cultural significance and symbolism sprouted across the continent.
One of the first builds of modern architecture in Africa belongs to Burkina Faso’s La Maison du Peuple or House of the People. After the country declared independence from France in 1960, René Faublée sought to build a brutalist structure inspired by the country’s native culture for their newly-formed government to meet. After opening in 1965, La Maison du Peuple served as a popular location for political debates and other democratic exercises.
The concrete structure features vibrant colors mimicking the textures and patterns of the earth that surround it. The magnificent lanterns on its roof reflect architecture traditional to Mossi, the nation’s native people, and they also provide natural light to its 2,500-seat auditorium while serving as passive ventilation ducts.
Found in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, La Pyramide is another example of the visionary Modernist designs that sprang up across Africa in the 1960s. Built from 1968 to 1973, itis one of the most famous Modernist buildings in Abidjan, known for being one of the first high-rise buildings in the country. Architect, Rinaldo Olivieri, aimed to capture the bustle of an African market in an urban setting through his design.
The iconic building exhibits a traditional cascading pyramid shape. Olivieri designed the building to house residences for the country’s elite on its top and shops and boutiques at its base. The building has faced some deterioration over its 60-year lifespan, but the Ivorian Government has plans to update its architecture and make it a tourist attraction in the coming years.
Independence Arch is another significant example of the power independence had on Modernist architecture in Africa. The concrete arch was funded and built by Accra’s Public Works Department after Ghana’s independence in 1957. Construction finished in 1961 at Accra, Ghana’s Independence Square – the second largest city square in the world – where the beloved arch shares a home with various other monuments symbolizing freedom.
The monument is made of three towering concrete arches that hold two other structures meant for government use in between their peaks. Underneath, the Eternal Flame of African Liberation, lit by Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of Ghana, still burns.
For decades, African countries brought their perspective and culture to the movement, building some of the world’s most distinctive yet forgotten works of Modernism. Through noticing and appreciating where these styles journey, we gain a greater knowledge and understanding of the world of architecture and architecture throughout the world.
Hot off the press is the spectacular retrospective of the 40+ year career of David Hovey Sr., FAIA, Optima’s CEO and Founder. David Hovey Sr., released by Images Publishing, is a collector’s item that arrived on bookshelves in January 2022. The monograph opens with a beautiful introductory essay by the late luminary architect Helmut Jahn, who wrote about their decades-long friendship and Hovey’s “staggering” influence on architecture. Entitled “Living Beautifully,” Jahn explains:
“The best thing that can be said about the work of David Hovey Sr. in his chosen field of multi-family and single-family housing is that he builds unique and inventive dwellings for people to live beautifully. That he chooses to play not just the role of the architect but also that of developer, contractor, construction manager, sales and leasing agent, and building operator makes the achievement even more remarkable. As his own client and CEO of his company, Optima, Hovey demonstrates that it’s possible to successfully execute the very different skills of an architect and a developer by applying tremendous knowledge and tenacity and assuming great responsibility. Many who have tried to work as an architect-developer have failed because they did not find the right balance. David Hovey expanded the role of the architect to the level of a master building and in this, he is without equal in his generation.”
In the words of friend and chronicler, Jahn talks about the arc of Hovey’s career:
“Hovey’s built work is a testament to constant refinement and improvement, each project a step along a path to take on new and bigger challenges, never being afraid of making a mistake by doing something new. The achievements of an architect become more evident with the passing of time. The good buildings become more important, the others will be forgotten.”
In Jahn’s reflections on Hovey’s deep understand of the complex issue of climate change, he shares his thoughts this way:
“David Hovey’s work should be recognized for more than its architectural design. This is particularly evident in his desert buildings where he addresses the important issue of climate change that challenges architecture today. Authorities measure energy consumption as the primary factor in building construction. Looking at energy efficiency alone is the wrong measure. We don’t have an energy problem, we have an emissions problem. Carbon dioxide is the principal culprit in climate change and the building industry contributes a considerable amount of it to the atmosphere.
“In Hovey’s buildings, there are strategies that address climate issues. This is demonstrated in the use of many prefabricated lightweight materials for load-bearing or non-load-bearing, enclosing parts. This extends to the use of recycled steel. Hovey regularly employs effective sun-shading devices. His strategies include LED lighting as well as energy-saving heating, air conditioning, and ventilation systems. Sustainability is assured by design and not through additional equipment or devices, which don’t pay off over time. Here, the mind of the architect and developer in one person can best design and build buildings where nothing can be taken away to come closer to perfection. Only through knowledge, determination, and a deep sense of responsibility can these energy goals be achieved, as the buildings show.”
Stay tuned for other inspiring excerpts from David Hovey Sr., along with stunning images of completed structures and his extraordinary sketches. For those who wish to purchase the book, it is available through a number of booksellers online.