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Scottsdale Public Art: Windows to the West

As part of our ongoing public art series, we’ve been exploring exceptional creations to be found across Scottsdale, from the unique Water to Water, to the latest installation, Pinball Wizard. Today however, the spotlight is on Windows to the West, Scottsdale’s first public art installation and one that still inspires the city today after more than 50 years in the city. 

In June 1970, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded the City of Scottsdale a $20,000 matching grant to commission its own notable work of art by an American sculptor. The NEA program, Works of Arts in Public Places, would go on to fund more than 700 works of public art across the country, and Scottsdale was the first small city they approached at the time. 

Two years later, in February 1972, the City of Scottsdale finished raising their $20,000 of the matching grant, and the Scottsdale Fine Arts Commision chose acclaimed sculptor Louise Nevelson to create the first work of public art for the city. Nevelson, who is regarded as one of the best sculptors of the 20th century, completed the expressionist sculpture out of monochromatic corten steel designed to patina with time. Its abstract structure and shapes resemble some of her other iconic creations. 

Louise Nevelson, the creator of Window to the West, Gazing at her other artwork, 1978, Courtesy of Dixie Guerrero, ©Pedro E. Guerrero Archives

Although the sculpture was originally titled Atmosphere and Environments XVIII, thanks to its westward placement after its completion, it quickly became known as Windows to the West. Since its dedication in 1973, the sculpture has remained a treasured landmark of Scottsdale and continues to showcase how far the city’s appreciation for art has come.

Today, due to renovations on the Scottsdale Civic Center where the Windows to the West lived, the sculpture is in storage until the construction is finished in 2023. When it returns, art enthusiasts can expect the beloved sculpture to find its new home closer to the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, but with the same western spirit as before.

Trending Now: Euchre Anyone?

Imagine a beautiful afternoon in the Optima Verdana® game room, with sunlight flooding the space and the scent of hot coffee and fresh cookies wafting. Sounds like a perfect setting for a rousing game of Euchre.

If you’re not a fan yet, euchre is the faster and wilder cousin of bridge. Both are four-person games with two players on each team that involve bidding, trumping and taking tricks.. As we’ve shared previously, bridge is methodical, complex and mathematically precise. It is often played in near silence, since players need to focus their energies on accounting for all 52 cards in the deck. In contrast, euchre only uses 24 cards, making the game simpler and easier to play, and leaves lots of opportunity for levity. Of the 24 cards — the nines, tens, jacks, queens, kings and aces — only 20 are played each hand, since four cards remain face-down in the “kitty,” increasing the role that chance plays in the game.

Euchre has been played in North America since the early 19th century, and was widely regarded as our national card game. Most researchers agree that it originated in Alsace as “Juckerspiel” and was brought to the New World by German-speaking immigrants. It’s also fascinating that game manufacturers in the U.S. added the first “Joker” to decks of playing cards as a glorified Jack. Once you dig into the game, all of this will make perfect sense!

Optima Verdana’s sky deck features various game rooms among the pool, sauna and spa.
Optima Verdana’s sky deck features various game rooms among the pool, sauna and spa.

As with many analog in-person pastimes, Euchre waned in popularity as mobility and technology offered myriad alternatives for recreation and entertainment. In recent years, however, the trend has started to reverse — in large measure as a response to Covid’s forced isolation. Today, people of all ages are forming weekly Euchre clubs and regular meetups, and once again the game is drawing people together for challenge, camaraderie and relaxation. At Optima Verdana, residents have the luxury of engaging with neighbors in private game rooms, book and cooking clubs, yoga classes and other neighborhood volunteer opportunities!

So while you wait for the card tables to be set up at Optima Verdana®, start learning the rules!

Trending Now: The Art of Playing Bridge

No one can dispute the remarkable benefits of participating in multi-player card games — from stimulating the brain to problem-solving with others, relaxation and relieving stress. And then consider the added perks of being in an exceptionally-designed physical space, flooded with natural light and furnished with comfy mid-century Modern gems. Taken together, what could possibly offer a better way to spend a few hours than settling into the Optima Verdana® card room with three other bridge enthusiasts for a friendly match?

For those who aren’t already in the know, bridge is a four-person card game played by two teams who compete to earn the most points by winning tricks: sets of four cards, one from each player. Players are dealt 13 cards each round, in which they bid on how many tricks they think they can win and determine which suit trumps the others. While the origins of bridge are not definitively known, a similar game called khedive appeared in Constantinople before 1870, and a nearly-identical game had been played in Greece prior to that. The game of bridge eventually made its way to New York society in 1893, and it has been a staple in our leisure culture since then. 

Today, according to the American Contract Bridge League, a whopping 25 million Americans over 18 know how to play, even though this is far fewer players than in the 1950s, when at least one person played bridge in 44 percent of U.S. homes. In the past several years, there has been a dramatic onboarding of new players of all ages, very much a result of sequestering at home during COVID-19.

The single best way to learn bridge — and to continue to improve — is simply by playing. And don’t be afraid to read bridge books, listen to podcasts and exchange tips with fellow players. Check out these great bridge resources for endless ways to make bridge playing part of your everyday life. And when you’re ready to take advantage of Optima Verdana®’s extraordinary space to gather and game, grab a fresh deck of playing cards, a few friends and enjoy!

Optima Verdana’s sky deck featuring the party room, billiard table, ping pong table and various game rooms.

Alfresco Cooking in Optima Communities

Warm weather, fresh air, and BBQs are all defining aspects of the perfect summer. Across all of Optima’s communities, we provide residents with abundant outdoor space to celebrate living well, and to engage with each other around alfresco cooking and dining. 

Our passionate approach to design creates a linkage between architecture and nature throughout each of our communities, but it’s in Optima Kierland, Optima Sonoran Village, Optima Signature, Optima Lakeview and our latest project, Optima Verdana, where residents will find extensive amenity spaces that include outdoor kitchens and communal grills on their sky decks, and additional private grills in select terraces. 

For those who are fans of alfresco cooking and dining, here’s your chance to hone your grilling skills with the great American staple — the hotdog. Whether you’re a pro or just getting the hang of it all, here are two great recipes to get you up to the sky deck with your chef’s hat and tongs…

Chicago-style hot dog
Chicago-style hot dog

Chicago-Style Hot Dog

Since Optima’s roots are in Chicago, we have to highlight the classic Chicago-style hot dog. The best part about the Windy City staple is how easy it is to prepare! All you need is a hot grill and all of the delish garden-fresh ingredients! Find the recipe here

Sonoran hot dog
Sonoran hot dog

Sonoran Hot Dog

While Chicago is famously known for its unique take on the hot dog, Arizona propels the standard bite to a whole different level with the Sonoran hot dog. Like its standard cousin, the Sonoran is topped with tasty condiments, but what makes it unique is its bacon-wrapped exterior. Find the recipe here

The outdoor kitchens, communal grills and private grills are just some of the many ways we design our residential and communal spaces to invite the outdoors inside. Connecting to nature is an easy way to take some time and connect to yourself and to the environment around you.

Community Architecture Across The World

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. 

The interior of the Losæter Bakehouse during a community event

Losæter Bakehouse, Oslo

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. 

The exterior of The Momentary

The Momentary, Bentonville, Arkansas

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. 

The interior of The Night Ministry’s headquarters featuring a vibrant mural, Photo courtesy of Kendal McCaugherty, Hall + Merrick Photographers

The Night Ministry, Chicago

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. 

Chicago Architecture: The Chicago Bungalow

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

Architectural Dominance

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.

A Guide to Chicago Restaurant Week

Spring is the season of new beginnings and reinvigoration — experiences many of us have been craving for a while. Thankfully, one of Chicago’s most cherished events is back this year, providing residents around the city with a treasured comfort. Here is our guide to Chicago Restaurant Week 2022.

Following last year’s modifications to the beloved event, Chicago Restaurant Week is back in full force for 2022. The 17-day festivity is a celebration of the city’s award-winning culinary scene. From March 25 to April 10, participants will have the opportunity to indulge in an endless list of Chicago’s most delectable eats.

The flavor-filled event features more than 300 restaurants, representing nearly any cuisine imaginable. Participating restaurants are found in both the city and its suburbs. So, whether you’re in Lakeview or Wilmette, there’s sure to be a plethora of choices around. Each restaurant will feature curated prix fixe menus filled with a variety of tasty eats. 

The multi-course meals vary in price, costing $25 for brunch and lunch and $39 or $55 for dinner (depending on the location). Many of the restaurants are also taking advantage of both takeout and delivery options for those looking to enjoy their meals from home. 

Chicago Restaurant Week is also partnering with Chicago Lighthouse’ Immersive Frida Kahlo Exhibit. The one of a kind experience will be held on March 22 from 6 – 8 p.m. and 8 – 10 p.m at Lighthouse Artspace Chicago. Guests will have the opportunity to enjoy snacks and cocktails from eight restaurants while absorbing the extraordinary Immersive Frida Kahlo Exhibit.

For those planning to savor some of the mouth watering cuisines, Choose Chicago has created a list of participating restaurants, complete with menus and the opportunity to book tables throughout the event that you can explore for yourself here.

Angie Chache Team Member Spotlight

Our passionate team at Optima is the heart and soul behind each of our communities and embodies all of our values daily. We recently sat down with Angie Chache, Optima Lakeview’s Property Manager, to learn more about her journey to Optima Lakeview and what excites her the most about this extraordinary new property. 

Tell us a bit about your background and the role you play at Optima.

I have been in residential property management for almost 20 years, managing different types of communities in a Property Manager and Regional Manager role. With Optima Lakeview, I am the Property Manager, so I oversee the site itself. I’m responsible for the entire building and its system of operations, and because I’m jumping in just as the building is being completed, it will be my first lease up. I am excited about it!

What drew you to Optima initially, and what’s kept you working there?

Initially, a conversation with Ali Burnham, the Marketing Director, introduced me to the vibrant project they were building here. My first experience with an Optima community was actually Optima Old Orchard Woods; I was drawn to its classical modernist architectural style. So when the opportunity to join the team at Optima Lakeview came up, I was very excited. At Optima, there is this wonderful collaboration between all departments. With most companies, the architect/designer and developer/builder are separate entities. So at Optima, where we do everything essentially under one roof, I observe that things go much more smoothly on the operations side of things.

How do you view the concept of community at Optima? How does it differ from other properties/buildings?

Community at Optima means providing exceptional and curated experiences for our residents. The buildings are designed with extensive amenity spaces so they can seamlessly function as an extension of our residents’ homes. Our tagline at Optima Lakeview is Expect the Extraordinary, which I believe speaks for both the building’s outstanding architecture and the rich community we are creating within it. 

One of our philosophies that encompasses our value around relationships and community is called the Optima Way. The Optima Way sets the stage for Optima experiences that are very unique and customized for every one of our residents. We strive to get to know every resident, what they like, what they don’t like, and how we can make all of their experiences unique. It’s about being encouraged by our company culture to create extraordinary encounters for the residents. When you live in an Optima community, it’s more than just living in any generic apartment; it’s about what residents can enjoy when they’re here and what we can do as a team to curate living experiences just for them. 

There are a lot of luxury properties in the market, but what differentiates us is our suite of services. The resident events we frequently host are incredibly special, including fitness classes and kid-focused events (we’re one of the only communities doing this). And our grand amenity spaces are unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Residents at Optima Lakeview are going to feel like these spaces are an extension of their home. Some areas feel private, and others are great spots to gather with friends…because when you have that much space to spread out, it’s going to feel like home.

Optima has a unique set of values that differentiates it from other company cultures. How does that affect the quality of your work life? What values matter most to you?

My bucket gets filled every day. Yes, there are challenges and days that are hard, but there is also support and fluidity between the departments. We all work for the same company which, on the Property Management side of the business, makes my job so much easier. The two values that speak to me the most are that we build strong lasting relationships and that people are — and always will be — the most important pieces of the puzzle. 

In my career, relationships — whether it be with employees, vendors, or residents — have been at the forefront of my values, and I always want everyone to feel welcomed and appreciated. Optima allows me to curate experiences for people and provide amazing customer service, and it isn’t typical of companies to have the customer at the forefront. Many companies say they value that, but Optima acts on it.

What makes you most proud to be a part of the Optima team?

The beautiful ,innovative designs of our buildings, how we impact our residents’ lives, and the intentional way we work to be a part of the communities we build in. I never really understood the thought put into Optima’s communities before I started working here. We strive to build long-lasting relationships and partner with businesses surrounding our community so our residents and the surrounding businesses can benefit from those partnerships we form.

I’m also proud of the way we give back to the communities where we have built. Recently, we partnered with Lakeview Pantry and worked there for a day, which allowed us to see the lives that are impacted daily by this organization right here in the Lakeview neighborhood. We are excited to partner with them long-term and see how our community can help support such an important cause.

With move-ins scheduled for the spring, what elements of Optima Lakeview should new residents be most excited about?

Everything! We have 198 units with 52-floor plans, which means sometimes there may only be one unit of a particular floor plan, so our uniqueness provides a sense of exclusivity. I can’t wait for residents to see our 7-story atrium that will be filled with an abundance of natural light and the vibrant vertical landscaping that will live inside of it — similar to the vertical landscaping we do on the exteriors of our Arizona communities. We will have 40,000 square feet of amenity space for only 198 residences. Our skydeck with 360-degree views of the city will also have a heated pool and jacuzzi that can be used year-round — even when it’s snowing. And, we’ll have private terraces that range from 300 square feet up to 2,000 square feet, some with private grills and firepits. Our community is like no other in this neighborhood.

Lakeview’s Hidden Architectural Treasures

Filled with an appreciation for arts, culture, and everything in between, Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood is home to some of the city’s most brilliant and iconic buildings. Forever inspired by the architecture surrounding us, we’ve been out and about to spotlight a few of the many architectural treasures found near our newest development, Optima Lakeview:

Landmark Century Cinema

Landmark Century Cinema, one of the neighborhood’s most opulent structures, opened its doors in 1925 at 2828 N Clark Street. The structure, originally named Diversey Theater, was designed by Edward Eichenbaum of Levy and Klient, a prominent architectural firm that was known for their theater designs at the time. The stunning theater was built with a Spanish Baroque Style façade which has remained in excellent condition throughout the building’s life.

Throughout the building’s nearly century-long existence, it has undergone several renovations and name changes. In honor of the Century of Progress World Fair hosted in Chicago from 1933-34, the building became the Century Theater. With the name change came a complete remodeling of its interior space, which introduced various Art Deco elements to the theater. 

In 2000, the Landmark Theater Chain bought the property, prompting the name change to Landmark Century Cinema. With the purchase came further restorations and renovations across the historic structure. Today, Landmark Century Cinema exhibits its original Baroque terracotta facade and updated neo-Art Deco interior. 

The vibrant interior of Schubas Tavern

Schubas Tavern

What was once a beloved tied house – a bar created to serve only a single brand of beer – is now a historic tavern featuring some of Lakeview’s most stunning interior and exterior architecture. Built by architectural firm Frommann and Jebsen, Schubas Tavern originated as a Schlitz Beer tavern in 1903.  

The company operated the tavern for over 80 years until the building was bought by Schubas in 1989. With restoration at the front of their minds, Schubas refreshed the historic bar’s 30-foot Brunswick mahogany bar, tin ceilings, walnut wainscoting along with exterior fixtures that included the famous Schlitz globe logo. Often frequented for its showstopping concerts and events, one of the most significant renovations for the building was its timber performance stage, which has been host to a variety of big names, including Janelle Monet, Billie Eilish and The Nationals.

The bar’s newest architectural addition, Tied House, exhibits a modern reinvention of the iconic tavern. The new restaurant and bar utilizes traditional tavern materials, including brick patterns, copper accents and ceiling tiles, while transforming them in a modern fashion. 

The Classical Revival Style façade of the Marshfield Trust and Savings Building

Marshfield Trust and Savings Building

Dramatically rising from its compact triangular lot at 3325 N Lincoln Ave, the former Marshfield Trust and Savings Building showcases various unique architectural elements that still radiate today. The historic bank building was constructed in 1924 by Architect William Gibbons Uffendell and Contractor Arthur Brundage, who would later become President of the International Olympic Committee.

The lanky flatiron building, which utilizes Classical Revival Styles of architecture, showcases an ornate terracotta exterior that features various elaborate designs. Two-story arched windows stretch along both sides of the building’s façade and meet in the middle to reveal the building’s main entrance, which is framed with an eye-catching bracketed cornice above its doors. 

With the opening of Optima Lakeview fast approaching, we couldn’t be more thrilled to continue showcasing what makes our new vibrant community so special.

2021: A Year in Review

As we kick off 2022, we want to take a moment to reflect on how we’ve continued to grow, learn and serve others over the past 12 months. Here are just a few highlights:

Awards

We were honored to receive a total of 9 awards this year! Our design and architecture were recognized with the AIA Chicago Firm of the Year Award, AIA Chicago Design Excellence Awards – Distinguished Building Award (Arizona Courtyard House), and Chicago Athenaeum’s American Architecture Award twice (Optima Kierland and Optima Sonoran Village). 

Art Baril, our Maintenance Manager at Optima Sonoran Village was awarded the Gold Facilities and Maintenance Manager of the Year by Multi-Housing News at their 2021 MNH Excellence Awards. 

Our culture and values were also acknowledged in 2021 with the AZCentral Top Companies 2021 Award and Best Places to Work in Chicago for the second year in a row. 

To see the full 2021 lineup, visit our awards page here

Projects and Properties

This was a significant year for development, construction, leasing and more at Optima. In Chicago, we continued construction at Optima Lakeview, which is nearly complete. The project is the first multifamily development to achieve the WiredScore Home Gold Certification in North America. We also returned to our roots on the North Shore where we broke ground on our newest development, Optima Verdana, and plan to introduce our signature vertical landscaping system to the Midwest.

In Arizona, our leasing team worked tirelessly to lease up our new 7140 tower at Optima Kierland Apartments, and our second condo building, 7180 Optima Kierland, closed out. We also broke ground on the fifth and final residential tower at Optima Kierland, 7190 Optima Kierland which will open in 2023.

Culture

Throughout 2021 our culture at Optima continued to thrive through richly rewarding avenues of kinship and connection. We celebrated the autumn season with our second annual pumpkin carving and costume contest, observed Diwali, the festival of lights, and shared laughs and stories while celebrating our successful year at company outings at Topgolf and a Chicago Cubs Game. We also enjoyed the return of in-person happy hours during the year.

Our team continued to embrace and internalize our shared values more than ever. We gave back to the communities we live in by volunteering at the Skokie Lagoons on the Chicago North Shore, picking up trash at the boat launch. We also took the opportunity to acknowledge eight Optima employees with our Core Values Award for their exceptional representation of our beliefs throughout their work. 

We can’t thank our leadership, team members and Optima communities enough for making 2021 one to remember. Heading into 2022, we are excited to continue innovating and achieving great things together.

person name goes here

Maintenance Supervisor

Glencoe, IL





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