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Arcosanti: Creating a City

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’s ceramics apse, one of two that reside in the planned city

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. 

Architecture

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. 

Arcosanti’s two barrel vaults with art embedded concrete walls

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.

Cycle the Arts in Scottsdale

Thanks to the city’s deep appreciation for the arts, Scottsdale is home to some of the most visionary public art in the country. And, with warm weather here and summer approaching, there is no better way to experience the city’s inspiring works than on a bike! Here is our guide to Cycle the Arts Scottsdale 2022:

Cycle the Arts Scottsdale is hosted by Scottsdale Public Art and the City of Scottsdale. The annual cycling event is back for the first time since 2019 to showcase some of the city’s exciting public art displays and sculptures. And because this is the event’s first time back in more than three years, participants will be able to hear about some of Scottsdale’s newest public art additions. 

The leisurely 9-mile bike ride is free and perfect for the whole family. It kicks off on Sunday, April 3, and check-in is at 8:30 a.m. at Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. While the event is expected to last until noon, the ride on Scottsdale’s award-winning bike paths will only take about two hours. 

Industrial Pipe Wave, Christopher Fennel, 2015, Courtesy of Scottsdale Public Art
Industrial Pipe Wave, Christopher Fennel, 2015, Courtesy of Scottsdale Public Art

The event includes 17 works from the city’s public art collection, including Jack Knife, Industrial Pipe Wave and Terraced Cascade. Each stop will include information about the art provided by Scottsdale Public Art staff and board members and possibly feature the artists themselves.

Made for both bike riders and art enthusiasts, Cycle the Arts Scottsdale is the perfect event for those looking to explore and learn more about the vibrant community. If you plan to participate, please bring your own helmet and water, and RSVP on Scottsdale Public Art’s website here.

Exploring Paolo Soleri’s Cosanti

Scottsdale and its surroundings offer some of the country’s most historic art and architectural sites, including Taliesin West and its museum of contemporary art – SMoCA. Because of the popularity of these marquee locations, some of the area’s other unique contributions are often overlooked. Today, we’re spotlighting one of the community’s most ambitious architectural and design feats, Cosanti

Cosanti’s History

Found in Paradise Valley, Arizona, less than a 15-minute drive from Optima Kierland Apartments, Cosanti is a standout in its suburban neighborhood. The Gallery and design studio were designed and built by the Italian-American architect, urban designer and philosopher, Paolo Soleri. Soleri, who built the project in 1956, lived with his wife on the five-acre property only a few miles from Taliesin West, where he studied under renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright just ten years earlier. 

The interior of Cosanti’s Earth House where Soleri resided until 2013, Courtesy of Cosanti Originals

The structure’s name originates from Soleri’s Italian roots. Cosanti combines the two Italian words for ‘object’ and ‘before’, and the word itself means, ‘There are things more important than objects’ – a philosophy Soleri lived by. This attitude extends beyond the structure’s name and into its architecture, where he introduced his own philosophy of arcology. The term recognizes the importance between built and lived environments, similar to that of sustainable or regenerative design

Otherworldly Architecture

Cosanti’s otherworldly design elements easily separate it from its modern surroundings. Some of the build’s most alluring features are its outdoor studio, performance spaces, swimming pool, Soleri’s residence, and of course, his famous ‘Earth House’. 

Cosanti’s earth-cast wind-bells produced of bronze and ceramics, Courtesy of Cosanti Originals

To create the Earth House, Soleri utilized an earth-casting technique, where his team formed dense mounds of earth and then covered them in concrete molds. After developing, the earth under each mold became excavated and concrete structures built partly underground appeared – a building method that allows the structure to utilize natural insulation from the earth. 

Soleri also used terraced landscaping, courtyards and garden paths to separate branches of the unique campus and further connected the environment to its natural surroundings using earth-cast wind-bells. 

Today, the Arizona Historic Site offers local residents and tourists free guided tours of the visionary structure and property. To explore the grounds and more of Cosanti yourself, visit their website here.

A Guide to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Studios Part 2: Taliesin West

While Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin was the first of his residences and studios, Taliesin West, a monumental exploration of Wright’s unique approach to organic architecture, is arguably Wright’s most intimate creation. 

Following the completion of Taliesin, where Wright lived and worked for nearly 30 years, the famed architect became interested in relocating to a warmer climate. In 1935, he purchased 495 acres of stunning Sonoran Desert below McDowell Mountain just outside of Scottsdale. Taliesin West brought extraordinary life to Arizona’s then-desolate desert, and, after nearly nine decades, the complex continues to advance Wright’s legacy and his iconic designs. 

Similar to Taliesin, Taliesin West drew great inspiration from its brilliant surroundings. While working with a group of apprentices throughout the construction process, Wright took advantage of the unique materials found in the surrounding landscapes. Using a mixture of local rocks, cement and desert sand, Wright and his team created, often by hand, what many describe as “desert masonry” to help structure the campus.

The complex is situated with various unique architectural elements that accentuate its deep-rooted connection to nature. Translucent canvas (now plastic) once covered the roof of many rooms within Taliesin West, creating an illusory linkage to the warm outdoors. Other features include lofty redwood beams accenting the building’s cold structure. 

Throughout Wright’s life, the campus served as both a winter home and a desert studio. While Taliesin West never experienced any misfortunes, unlike its sibling complex Taliesin, the space did experience numerous renovations throughout the period from 1937 to 1959 when Wright lived and worked there. Some of the renovations included the addition of a drafting studio, dining hall,  workshop, three theaters, Wright’s office and living quarters, and the residences for his apprentices and staff. Various decorative walkways, gardens, terraces, and pools acted as both luxuries to the property and connections to each larger structure. 

Taliesin West interior
The Garden Room found inside of Taliesin West, Courtesy of Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

Today,Taliesin West serves as the headquarters for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and, until 2020, was the winter home for The School of Architecture at Taliesin. The inspiring architecture was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1974, was recognized as a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1982 and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019.

Found just a short drive from the heart of Scottsdale, Taliesin West offers the perfect trip for anyone seeking to explore one of Arizona’s most exciting works of architecture. The complex hosts a variety of events and programs throughout the year and presents visitors with numerous tours that can be discovered on their website here.  

Exploring the Scottsdale Arts District

Since the early 2000s, Optima has called Scottsdale home. The one-of-a-kind desert city offers a little bit of something for everyone. Golf lovers can enjoy the sprawling championship courses, foodies have access to some of the country’s finest dining and chic boutiques provide shoppers endless entertainment. We are proud of our contributions to this vibrant city with the amazing communities of Optima Camelview Village, Optima Sonoran Village and Optima Kierland, and equally proud to see the city continuing to expand its cultural offerings to residents and visitors alike. Today we’re exploring one of the city’s most treasured locations, the Scottsdale Arts District

The arts district consists of an entire neighborhood found in the heart of Downtown Scottsdale, running along Main Street for roughly six blocks. Celebrated art galleries sit next to amazing art installations. Around them, retailers, boutiques and acclaimed restaurants ensure that visitors to the district are fully immersed in the best of everything. 

Some of Scottsdale’s most cherished pieces of public art – like the commanding sculpture Jack Knife – reside in the district, along with a number of the city’s museums and cultural venues including Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts and Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Arts, the home of Knight Rise.

Throughout the year, the arts district embraces its warm surroundings and friendly culture with its weekly ArtWalk. Every Thursday from 7 PM – 9 PM, buildings lining Main Street open their doors to the individuals enjoying the Scottsdale ArtWalk. In addition to this weekly tradition, ArtWalk hosts a themed Gold Palette series event every few weeks to offer even more exciting entertainment and showcase only the best of the best works of art. Live music, complimentary food and wine tastings, and extended gallery hours are just some of the few extra features that come along with the special event. Upcoming Gold Palette events include Western Week on February 3 and Native Spirit on March 3.

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art found in the Scottsdale Arts District, Courtesy of SMoCA

As we continue to develop our vibrant culture here in Scottsdale, particularly with the expansion of the Kierland community, we look forward to discovering new opportunities to enjoy the city’s rich cultural and entertainment programming, unique retail experiences and fantastic dining values, where there is truly something for everyone.

Scottsdale Public Art: Knight Rise

One of the many reasons we love Scottsdale is its appetite for some of the country’s most thoughtful architecture and art installations. Found in the Nancy and Art Schwaim Sculpture Garden at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, a very short drive from Optima Sonoran Village, is one of those extraordinary displays, Knight Rise by James Turrell.

This inspiring work of art frames the dynamic colors of Scottsdale’s sky through an oculus or skylight. The skyspace is situated at the peak of a concrete dome with concrete benches encircling the room. Knight Rise gives guests their own unique experience with every visit. As the sky overhead changes constantly, so do the perceptions of light and color being framed through the skyscape, inviting visitors’ imaginations to run wild. In a simple, physical act of viewing the sky purely as light, hue, and texture, the artwork completes itself. More specifically, an engaged visitor completes the experience that is Turrell’s artwork.

Part art, part science, the skyspace is an unparalleled creation, and only 14 others are open to the public across the country. Those who experience Knight Rise find it to be meditative and inspiring; a space where one can find tranquility and peace within the confines of the concrete space.

Vibrant sunlight coming in from Knight Rise illuminates the concrete surface of the installation’s interior
Vibrant sunlight coming in from Knight Rise illuminates the concrete surface of the installation’s interior

Knight Rise was completed in 2001 by Turrell, known as a “sculptor of light.” He is an artist of international acclaim considered to be one of the most significant and influential artists working in the world today. And while many artists use paint to replicate light, he uses light itself — sometimes manmade, sometimes natural — to create visual effects. Turell has been creating skyscapes across the United States for nearly five decades, mastering his craft along the way. Inspired by legendary artists from Monet to Mark Rothko, Turell tangibly employs color as the focal point of his practice. 

Knight Rise is a permanent installation located in the Nancy and Art Schwalm Sculpture Garden at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. To experience Knight Rise, visit the Museum anytime from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

How to Keep Active in the Winter With Optima Fitness Centers

When the weather turns cold and the days get shorter, it can be difficult to stay true to our fitness goals. As part of Optima’s commitment to creating happy and healthy communities, we’re constantly developing ways to keep residents active throughout the year. In all of our buildings, residents will find incredible fitness and wellness amenities to stave off winter blues.

Indoor Basketball/Pickleball

The basketball courts at Optima provide generous spaces for individuals or groups to build endurance and strengthen their bodies, and they are thoughtfully designed to effortlessly flow into the modern design around them. Residents can step onto the courts to spend time doing drills or to join a pickup game. And as pickleball becomes evermore popular, many of our courts are now fitted out to accommodate this popular game, giving each space greater versatility.

Yoga 

For those looking for vigor, balance, stretching and meditative activity, Optima’s yoga studios are the perfect answer. Our yoga studios are fantastic for residents to learn more about themselves, practice mindfulness and discover new ways of staying active. Maintaining a routine yoga practice provides mental and physical health benefits, including improved energy and vitality. And, similar to all of our other amenity spaces, our yoga studios serve as spaces to build community and connect with other Optima residents who might share the same values.

Optima Lakeview’s state-of-the-art fitness center

Expansive Fitness Centers

Included in each of our apartment communities and many of our condominiums, Optima’s expansive fitness centers offer residents endless opportunities to focus on their health and wellness. At Optima Lakeview, the fitness center has been outfitted with top-of-the-line cardio equipment, a weight room, a light-filled studio for yoga and stretching and locker rooms with complimentary towel service. Residents can also take advantage of yoga classes and personal training, along with outdoor clubs for runners, bikers and nature lovers.

Swimming Pool at 7140 Kierland
Rooftop sky deck pool at the 7140 tower at Optima Kierland Apartments

Swimming Pools

No discussion of fitness and wellness amenities at Optima would be complete without showcasing our swimming pools. Many of our communities, including Optima Kierland, Optima Sonoran Village, Optima Signature and Optima Lakeview, offer beautifully-designed indoor and/or outdoor swimming pools — ideal for lap swimming and water aerobics — as a central feature of our impressive rooftop sky deck spaces. While the health benefits of swimming are compelling year-round, they are especially powerful in the cold winter months when a regular pool routine can be both invigorating and relaxing.

Rooftop Sauna at Optima Kierland Apartments
Rooftop Sauna at Optima Kierland Apartments

Saunas

A favorite among Optima residents, our rooftop saunas are a relaxing way to stay healthy throughout the year. While they aren’t a means to be active, saunas come with a wealth of  benefits, providing residents with an opportunity to reduce stress, relieve pain and recharge. While the benefits of using a sauna are seemingly endless, with cold weather, hopping into a heated room might be the only motivation you need.

At Optima communities, residents never have to fear the impact of winter on their mobility or on their peace of mind. With our healthy environments and distinctive amenities, mental and physical health are always a priority.

Visionary Libraries Around The World

At Optima, our appreciation for innovative design and forward-facing architecture runs deep. We continue to be inspired by pioneering design in public structures of all types across the globe, from museums to municipal buildings and everything in between. Today, we’re exploring some of the world’s most celebrated contemporary libraries recognized by Architectural Digest — from their unique futuristic perspectives to their captivating appetite for inventive design.

Tianjin Binhai Library, Tianjin, China 

Tianjin Binhai Library is one of Tianjin’s newest developments as part of its emerging cultural district, the Binhai Cultural Center. The future-facing library was designed by the Dutch architectural firm MVRDV in partnership with the Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute and opened to the public in 2017. The building features more than 360,000 square feet of space, floor-to-ceiling terraced bookshelves and a massive spherical auditorium that sits in its center — and has earned the library its nickname, The Eye. The unique space frequently serves as a hub for education and performance for Tianjin’s residents and expands the horizons for what the future of shared community attractions and libraries might be. 

Helsinki Central Library’s façade and undulating roof, Oodi, Finland

Helsinki Central Library Oodi, Finland

Situated in the heart of Finland’s largest city, Helsinki Central Library Oodi offers unrestrained access and experiences for its guests. Designed by Finnish architectural firm ALA Architects, the library was completed in 2018 and boasts an undulating cloud-like roof that contrasts the harshness of its lower wooden body. The library is assembled with a unique mix of glass, steel and spruce wood and combines various aspects of contemporary design. Its visionary architecture separates the library into three distinct layers: an alive ground level, a tranquil upper level and an in-between space complete with studios, game rooms, meeting spaces and workshops equipped with next-generation technology. 

The marble interior of Qatar National Library, Doah, Qatar

Qatar National Library, Doah, Qatar

Qatar National Library is a genuine manifestation of contemporary art designed by Dutch firm OMA. The building opened in 2017 and was designed so its focal point — the Heritage Collection — and its entrance reside at its center. Around the center, each of the building’s corners folds up, revealing terraces of marble bookshelves and its People Mover — a one-of-a-kind transportation system that directs its guests throughout its levels. Qatar National Library contains Doha’s National Library, Public Library and University Library, totaling more than a million collective works of literature. 

The Arabian Library’s pre-rusted façade, Scottsdale, Arizona

The Arabian Library, Scottsdale, Arizona

Recalling the silhouette and architecture of Arizona’s Monument Valley and various slot canyons, local firm Richard Kennedy Architects created The Arabian Library on the edge of Scottsdale — only 15 minutes from the Optima Kierland Apartments. The building’s dramatic pre-rusted steel façade complements its stone roof, which is complete with lush, native vegetation. The library’s interior is uniquely designed to mirror the atmosphere of retail and living environments and incorporates an abundance of sustainable materials and technologies.

All works of art in their own novel ways, from their futuristic architecture to their radical functions, these libraries exhibit the best of the best among the world’s most innovative libraries. 

Scottsdale Public Art: Water to Water

Scottsdale is a diverse community with a deep appreciation for its environment, its history and the arts, which are some of the many reasons we love it. Home to the Scottsdale Arts District, the city recognizes the significant benefits that public art provides to neighborhoods, a value we share in our Optima communities. Today, we’re exploring one of Scottsdale’s most unique public works that highlights an essential aspect of life, Water to Water.

Water to Water was completed in 1999 by Christine Tanz in collaboration with Paul Edwards. Edwards is a renowned designer who received the Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute Design award in 1990. Both artists are recognized in Arizona for their impressive contributions to public art, including their instrumental involvement in developing a public art plan for Metropolitan Tucson.

Located 15 minutes north of Optima Kierland Apartments, Water to Water sits at the entry of the Scottsdale Water Campus, one of the leading water recycling plants in the world and Arizona’s first potable water reuse facility. While Water to Water is acknowledged as a public art display, it operates as a kind of performance, highlighting the water’s importance to Arizona and its encompassing deserts.

Visitors first witness a pierced metal façade, mirroring the walls in our kitchens, bathrooms and gardens, through which many of us have access to water. Once sensors around the display recognize movement, the installation comes alive, and water sprays from the showerheads and faucets that line the metal wall. 

The “interior” of Water to Water revealing its extensive network of pipes
The “interior” of Water to Water revealing its extensive network of pipes

The unique fountain takes advantage of the freshwater stream that stretches across the campus. After the water travels through the extensive network of pipes that lives behind its metal wall and retreats through the various spouts on its other side, it returns directly back into the facility’s stream – a fully-sustainable process. The skeletal framework of the work provides visitors with new understandings of water, a natural element that many take for granted, and tells a powerful, physical story about how life prospers in its barren surroundings. 

Scottsdale Water Campus, where Water to Water resides, is located at 8787 E Hualapai Drive and is open from 6 to 5 most weekdays. The art can be viewed at no cost to visitors.

The Benefits of Urban Greenspaces

At Optima, we approach every project as an opportunity to explore the best possible ways to create harmony between the built and natural environments to allow our residents to enjoy a wealth of benefits that contribute to a healthier, more sustainable environment.

We understand that greenspaces; parks, gardens, conservatories, roof gardens and residential greenery are crucial to the vitality of urban spaces and the communities where they are found. Population density of urban areas is increasing swiftly. By 2050, it is estimated that 68% of the global population will live in cities. According to the WHO, urban greenspaces promote mental and physical health through the promotion of physical activity, mutual understanding, and mitigating exposure to air and noise pollution as well as excessive heat. 

In the summer, the heat generated by human activity, transport, and industry creates an increased need for energy consumption to cool spaces. Green areas have the ability to absorb that heat and pollution. They also allow urban dwellers to stretch their legs and be outside, improving cardiovascular health and relieving stress. Each space also promotes social cohesion, the coming together of people who would usually not interact with each other due to the individualistic nature of urban living.

Landscaping used to create privacy at Optima Signature
Landscaping used to create privacy at Optima Signature

At Optima we recognize the tremendous advantages greenspaces provide. In Chicago, Optima Signature’s inviting plaza filled with lush landscaping and 1.5 acres of amenity space encourages residents to spend time outdoors. Gardens, landscaped fire pits, swimming pools, and outdoor entertainment all radiate the feeling of an oasis within the larger urban environment.

Landscaped Courtyard at Optima Kierland Apartments
Landscaped Courtyard at Optima Kierland Apartments

Optima Kierland Center embraces its surrounding beauty and builds off of it. Lush greenery fills the more than 7.5 acres of open space connecting Optima Kierland’s buildings in a park-like setting. Similarly, Optima Sonoran Village utilizes more than half of its 10-acre property to house stunning landscaping, sculpture, and pedestrian paths while mitigating the desert’s harsh climate. We utilize rooftop gardens and our signature vertical landscaping at Optima Sonoran Village, Optima Kierland Apartments, and will be bringing it to Chicago at Optima Verdana, to create an oasis inspired by its surroundings that contribute to the greater environment. This type of green space brings both beauty and positive contributions to their communities. 

Greenspaces make urban living refreshing, enjoyable and social. And as our cities become more and more dense, urban greenspaces become a crucial part of the ecosystem — and of our enhanced quality of life.

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