Modernism and the Pandemic

This year, health and wellness have been more important than ever. And with self-quarantining and spending more time at home, many have redefined what a healthy home means. Like other shifts in the world, COVID-19 has certainly prompted us to reflect on the impact of design. We’ve seen how Modernism has affected pandemics in the past, but how might it impact our sense of wellness during COVID-19?

Green-Inspired Design

To house healing tuberculosis patients, the Paimio Sanatorium was designed to connect its residents to fresh air and the healing qualities of nature. While its setting in Southwestern Finland was ideal for recovery, it’s not a feasible solution for those trying to stay healthy in urban areas. Our buildings bring the outdoors in, connecting residents to nature through green roof gardens, vertical landscaping systems, private terraces and lush common spaces. 

Natural Light

Sunshine is another natural remedy for ailing health problems, and the iconic expansive windows found across Modernist practices invites plenty of light inside. From Optima Signature in Chicago, to Optima Kierland Center and Optima Sonoran Village in Scottsdale, our buildings feature floor-to-ceiling glass curtain walls, swathing our interiors in light. And for those who may want to more fully soak in the sun, our outdoor amenity spaces, like the grand courtyard promenade at Optima Camelview Village, have plenty of seating amongst resort-style luxury amenities for residents to get their daily dose of Vitamin D.  

Minimal and Open

Modernism is known for its minimalist design, where a lack of ornamentation, decorative moldings or elaborate trims are simplified to create a clean aesthetic. Also simplified: floor plans. Modernist architecture is known for its simple, sweeping interiors, taking a “less-is-more” approach to the division of space. At Optima, our large, open floor plans provide bigger and more open spaces, rather than a series of small rooms, allowing people to comfortably spread out and maintain a safe distance.

Whether residents are still self-isolating or just spending more time at home, we know it’s a challenging time to stay healthy and well, both mentally and physically. But we hope that the Modernist sensibilities of our buildings allow for moments of respite throughout the day and better opportunities to focus on wellness.

Frank Lloyd Wright Site Virtual Tours

At Optima, we believe that design has the power to inspire awe and wonder — and even to unite us in challenging circumstances. We’re seeing proof of this, as the architectural world makes leaps and bounds to innovate and ensure we can continue sharing our love for exceptional design, even while social distancing. As part of this response, a dozen historic sites designed by Modernist master Frank Lloyd Wright have teamed up to offer a series of weekly virtual tours.

12 Weeks of Frank Lloyd Wright

A collaborative partnership between Frank Lloyd Wright participating sites, with leadership from the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and Unity Temple Restoration Foundation, the virtual tour series kicked off on April 2. The idea behind the series is to keep the doors to historic Frank Lloyd Wright sites open, at least virtually, so that architecture lovers can continue to experience beauty and inspiration from home. It deeply resonated with our own values when the foundation stated: “Wright’s works bring people together in harmony with the natural world, reminding us that we are all connected, even when we’re apart.”

The series, which will run until at least July 15, brings a new immersive video experience shared every week on Thursday at 1 PM EST, united by the hashtag #WrightVirtualVisits. Participating sites are publishing videos, each to their own social media platforms, in the hopes of introducing the sites to a wider audience and providing interesting and informal glimpses into the sites’ history and design.

For a full overview of the tour series, and to discover participating sites, visit the event page here

Staying Creative During COVID-19

During COVID-19, we’re spending more time at home than we’re maybe used to. For some, this means extra time spent playing with — and managing — the kids, for others, any extra time offers a much needed pause to rejuvenate, refresh and stay well. No matter the unique situation, we’re all coming together and responding to the situation in thoughtful, creative ways. Here are just a few ways our team is staying creative (and sane) during COVID-19:

Staying creative during COVID with handmade cards

Making New Traditions

I’ve been taking out my markers to make a few bubble letter posters for car parade birthday greetings and if I can’t get there in the car, then I’ll just show my artwork in the Zoom birthday party. 

Each day I play either online canasta or online mah jongg with my friends.   Canasta has become part of my nighttime ritual, a way to catch up on everyone’s day while playing a hand on-line and we talk on Discord at the same time so we feel like we’re real gamers like our kids!”

-Jennifer Oppenheimer, Senior Vice President


Painting… Nonstop

“I don’t know how creative I’ve been, does painting almost every square inch of our house count as creative? I’m working on our kitchen cabinets right now.”

-Shelby Vukic, Office Manager & Executive Assistant


Slowing Down to Stargaze

“What I think I’ve enjoyed the most is slowing down, and not having to go go go all the time. Being able to relax outside in the evening, take a dip in the pool, soak in the hot tub and see the AZ stars. I have been enjoying my mornings watering all our potted plants, herbs and flowers in the back. I’ve been cooking a lot, we are eating better, and with fresher ingredients too. Saving money on not eating out as much as we were doing!”

-Jamie Springer, Regional Manager


Becoming Adventurers, Gardeners and Ornithologists

“Big things have happened in my house during shelter-in-place. My son became potty trained and learned how to ride a scooter. We play with the bouncy house in the backyard every day that the weather allows and go on a ton of nature walks. We live on a ravine so we go out looking for deer, foxes, fish, and birds. The kids have a blast. We spend a lot of time looking through binoculars these days – we have an owl living in a tree in our backyard as well as woodpeckers, robins and cardinals.  The other day we spotted a scarlet tanager.  We’ve become a house of ornithologists!  We also planted some seeds in our garden – so far just arugula and basil but we plan to plant the rest next weekend.”

-Ali Burnham, Marketing Director


From our homes to yours, we hope these stories provide some inspiration and help you find new ways to stay creative during COVID-19, too!


Staying Connected Amidst COVID-19

At Optima, we operate with an intense passion for creating together. Ours is a highly collaborative team, often communicating in real time to share ideas and inspiration as part of our vertically-integrated business model. With collaborative systems already in place, our team is staying connected as ever during COVID-19, across states, offices, communities and jobsites, with some currently operating from home. 

Beth Maher heads up Learning and Development at Optima, placing emphasis on the wellness of our team along the way. We sat down (digitally) with Beth and asked her to share how she’s guiding our team through continuing to stay connected, and continuing to stay well, during this time.

Sharing Wellness Resources

Wellness has always been pivotal in our culture, but Beth shares, “It’s become a priority now more than ever. We want to provide additional wellness support to all our coaches and team members to help guide them through the changes many are experiencing from this new environment.” Wellness resources are being offered universally across our team — from architects to property managers to the construction team — giving all access to meditation and yoga guidance and other activities that can be done no matter where you are. Through our partnership with GROW LMS, we recently rolled out a set of online wellness courses that are available for our entire team.

Staying Connected

“Connectedness is at the core of Optima,” Beth explains. The Optima Wellness Page in the company intranet is just one source of connectivity where many resources are located. All teams continue to communicate seamlessly by regularly hopping onto Microsoft Teams, where we continue to share ideas in real time. We also use the Yammer app, which is a messaging board where we share inspirational quotes and ideas. We continue to engage at a safe distance over video chat too, whether that’s for a quick brainstorming session or to come together for a company-wide trivia night or virtual book club discussion.

Looking to the Future

The current state of the world may prove to be a challenge in some ways, “but we have the resources to keep everyone connected no matter what,” Beth affirms. “I’ve never worked in an organization that has such strong connectivity between its team members and coaches.” Human connection is important now more than ever, and it is this connection we have at Optima that will enable us to stay agile, strong and able to tackle this challenge together. 

Taking Art Online: How to Visit Fan-Favorite Museums Digitally

As art enthusiasts, we know a trip to the museum can provide much needed inspiration and solace. While many physical cultural institutions have closed their doors as we shelter-in-place, their doors remain very much open online. Today, we’re sharing how our favorite museums have been taking art online, and how you can visit iconic global institutions digitally.

J Paul Getty Museum

Take a trip to sunny LA with digital museum tours offered by the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California. Their expansive collection of 6,000+ works makes the museum worth the visit on any ordinary day, but through Google Arts and Culture, you can actually physically “mouse” your way through the galleries via an interactive online museum tour, or scroll through three online exhibits and 15,000+ artistic works.

Vatican Museums

While sheltering-in-place, the options for online exploration are limitless. Traverse internationally across the interwebs to place yourself via computer into the Vatican Museums in Rome, Italy. Explore the Sistine Chapel, impressive architectural details, intricate murals and an astounding array of artwork via their online virtual tours featuring expansive, 360-degree views. Afterwards, you can even take an “outdoor stroll” around the Vatican City with You Visit.

Picasso Museum

In keeping up with our love of Picasso, we recommend spending a few hours online at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, Spain. A seemingly-endless digital archive of Pablo Picasso’s most renowned works is accompanied by some of the best-preserved Medieval architecture in Barcelona. Enter the museum through its ancient and rustic patios to discover the digital treasures within via this digital interactive tour.

Art Institute of Chicago

Missing visits to your local favorite? Have no fear, because the Art Institute of Chicago is bringing the comforts of a familiar gallery to your couch. Their array of online resources include ways to surf the entire museum collection, new and highly-detailed interactive features, a digitized version of their current special exhibit and more. 

As we continue to spend our days at home, virtual trips to explore the arts and culture provide a much needed vibrant reprieve. Stay tuned for more Optima features on how to stay engaged, connected and inspired at home. 

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