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The Synthesis of Art and Architecture

Art and architecture share a rich, timeless connection rooted in their design, creators and intended meaning. Both forms of expression become envisioned and constructed through similar principles, visual elements and ambition to engage with one’s senses. Today, we’re exploring this essential relationship and what happens when the two worlds collide. 

David Hovey Sr., FAIA, Optima’s CEO and Founder, says it best when describing the linkage between art – in particular, sculptures – and architecture, saying that “architecture is about function, as well as aesthetics, while sculpture is really just about aesthetics.”

Architecture is traditionally informed by functionality first, with aesthetics coming into play as with a significant role. Art, on the other hand, is commonly guided by aesthetics, without any burdens to deliver an object or outcome that is functional. However, both forms of expression are typically influenced by similar social and political factors that affect the environment surrounding the work or structure. 

Centuries-old cultural movements, including the Renaissance, where art imitated life and vice versa, demonstrate the linkage between art and architecture. However,  it wasn’t until the Avant-Garde movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries that the integration of the two took a new meaning. 

This integration between the disciplines quickly became a core characteristic of modernism and modernist design, and is distinctly present in the work of some of the greatest architects and artists of the time period. Because artists use their art as a tool to shape emotions, modernism emerged as an expectation in which art and architecture would provide a new value when combined. 

Oscar Niemeyer’s Oscar Niemeyer Museum exhibits the synthesis of art and architecture, displaying bold geometric forms, sculptural curves and vivid murals in a functional structure, reminiscent of a human eye.

The Bauhaus Movement was one of the first to introduce this idea, encouraging the unification of all arts and coupling aesthetics with the technology of the time. Notably, this ideology was cultivated through Le Corbusier’s use of painting and sculpture within his established concepts of architecture. Le Corbusier also argued that it was of equal importance to architects, painters and sculpturists to contribute constructive collaborations to the world by designing and creating in harmony with one another. 

Along with Le Corbusier, various other artists throughout the past century have tried to synthesize art and architecture throughout their work, particularly Oscar Niemeyer, Mies van der Rohe and Zaha Hadid. Today, architects and artists continue to collaborate and integrate their disciplines more than ever, exploring and expanding the dynamic relationship shared between the two.

David Hovey Sr., FAIA, the Artist

Art and architecture are united through a connection of aesthetics. Both emerge from a creative vision to engage the senses and express their unique identity. As we continue to explore the rich stories detailing the career of David Hovey Sr., FAIA, in the newly published catalogue raisonné, it’s a pleasure to unearth the vision behind some of his most ambitious works. 

Alex Marshall, in his thoughtful essay entitled “Brilliant Journey,” reflects on the dimension of David Hovey Sr., FAIA,’s career as an artist:

“In front of Optima Signature (2017) on Illinois Street near Michigan Avenue in Chicago and at Camelview Village in Scottsdale are objects composed of smooth, brightly colored steel plates with cutouts in whimsical patterns of swoops, sharp points, and angles. They contrast with the buildings, which have horizontal and vertical lines.

“The objects are works of art, sculptures designed by Hovey Sr. He has taken his love of exploring the possibilities of materials and the creation of spaces, and channeled them to aesthetic ends.

“‘Architecture is about function, as well as aesthetics,’ Hovey Sr. said. ‘While sculpture is really just about aesthetics. You don’t have that functional component. You can do whatever you want. I like that.

“‘Because of my years of working with it as an architect, I feel I’ve developed a special understanding of steel, its material structure, and what can be done with it visually. I’m trying to do something that can’t be done in wood, canvas, or plastic. So I use very thin steel plates, and join them together so that they become very three-dimensional, and create curves and voids and form. It doesn’t really matter if they are a foot high or fifteen feet high.

“Although he has been exploring the idea for years, Hovey Sr.’s practice as a sculptor took a leap forward when he decided to put one of his own pieces in front of Camelview Village in Scottsdale. The municipal government had required Optima to spend $400,000 on a piece of art in front of the building. Hovey Sr. decided to do it himself, using all the money to fabricate, transport, and install the art.

Kiwi at Optima Signature, Chicago, IL

“The process is this: Hovey Sr. makes sketches of his designs, and then gives them to a fabrication shop. The shop produces digital versions of Hovey Sr.’s sketches, and then uses these computerized drawings to make the three-dimensional pieces composed of different planes of steel. The expensive laser cutting machines, some about the size of a small car, draw as a child might draw on a piece of paper, except with a laser that burns precise holes and lines into the plates of metal, to produce what Hovey has set down.

“‘I wanted to take advantage of the most recent technology, so the sculpture I was doing wouldn’t look like something from the nineteenth or twentieth century; it would look like something from the twenty-first century.

“Hovey Sr.’s sculptures also reflect his own temperament. ‘I’m one of those people who like to be active so if I have an hour or two free, I would rather be doing sculpture. It’s my way of relaxing.”

Stay tuned for more inspiring and enlightening excerpts from David Hovey Sr., FAIA. To learn more about the stunning sculptures created by David Hovey Sr., FAIA, that live in Optima communities, explore our website here.

David Hovey Sr., FAIA, A Modernist Philosophy Emerges

As we continue to explore the new David Hovey Sr., FAIA catalogue raisonné, it’s a pleasure to linger over the expansive, thoughtful essay penned by distinguished architecture writer and long-time associate, Cheryl Kent. This examination of Hovey’s career entitled, “The Achievement,” provides new perspectives on his career that give us greater appreciation for what he has cared deeply about, and the impact he has made.

In speaking about Hovey’s core beliefs, Kent explains:

“David Sr. continues as CEO and a principal architect. Now in his mid-seventies, he is beginning to pull back and leave more responsibility to his heirs. Still, he continues to work every day, ‘helping’ as he says ‘wherever I’m needed.’ In 2004, Optima opened an Arizona office but it has been building in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area since 2000. Today, Optima projects routinely gross over one million square feet and sometimes more than two. Over the course of the company’s existence, it has built nearly six thousand residential units with another 950 now in the works. And the pace has picked up. In its early years, the firm did approximately one project a year; now it is likely to have projects in construction in both markets at the same time, and sometimes more than one in each.

840 Michigan was a 24-unit complex in suburban Evanston built in 1985.

“It is significant that Hovey accomplished this over decades when his design philosophy, modernism — and he does embrace it as a philosophy — was out of step with the architectural mainstream. When many architects had embraced postmodernism beginning in the 1970s arguing for conventional historical references non-cognoscenti could understand and still other architects turned to deconstructivism that no one could understand, Hovey was steadfast in his belief in the tenets of modernism, in the future, in technology, in material honesty, in structural expression, and in architecture’s ability to improve life for people. Architecture, Hovey insists, must be expressive of its time and employ the latest technology. He has made a highly successful career of well-designed housing in a modernist idiom.”

When Hovey tackled North Pointe on the site of an old warehouse in Evanston in 1990, he used a dynamic plan to include 118 townhouses with penthouses and two mid-rise condominiums.

The projects in the early years of Hovey’s career allowed him to hone his practice by continuing to take on greater challenges in location, scope, size and materials — all the while staying true to his core beliefs and principles.

New Book Release: Reflections on the Career of David Hovey Sr., FAIA

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.”

A sketch of Optima’s Sterling Ridge

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.

Optima’s Biltmore Towers

“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.

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.

Optima Lakeview Brings WiredScore Certification to Chicago Multifamily Developments

As employment and living spaces continue to blur, residents are seeking communities that foster technology for both entertainment and work purposes, empowering them to define the way they live. At Optima, we are proud to share that our newest multifamily development, Optima Lakeview, meets those demands and is the first multifamily development to achieve the WiredScore Home Gold certification in North America.

“At a time when people are working from home more than ever before, Optima Lakeview is proud to be a leader in ensuring residents can access a fast and reliable wireless connection throughout the building – whether they are in their home or using one of the many amenity areas,” said David Hovey Jr., AIA, President. “People’s reliance on technology has only increased since the pandemic, so we’re excited to show our residents our commitment to meeting their technology needs in their new home. At Optima Lakeview, residents and their guests can confidently use their devices wherever and whenever as they’ll always have strong connectivity.”

In 2019, WiredScore launched its first Home certification in the UK, and after great success, they expanded, launching WiredScore Home in North America in June 2021. Optima’s partnership with WiredScore began prior to the formal launch in September 2020. Since then, they have provided essential guidance on leading technology features that matter most for our residents’ experiences, leading to the exceptional standards of a high-quality, resilient digital network that Optima Lakeview meets.

We sat down recently with Michelle Eichengrun, Client Success Manager at WiredScore, to talk about the experience working with the Optima team. “Achieving WiredScore Home Gold certification acknowledges Optima’s position as a leader in innovation,” Eichengrun explains, “and recognizes the vast technological and digital connectivity advancements that Optima Lakeview offers its residents. The road to certification was an intense one, grounded in a rigorous evaluation process that focused on five essential aspects of modern living: masterplanning, infrastructure, services, monitoring and innovation. Every step of the way, we were impressed with the responsiveness of the Optima team, the excellence of their design, and their commitment to investing in future-proof technology for their residents.”

Residents in Optima Lakeview will benefit from best-in-class digital connectivity features accessible across the entire seven-story development. The building will be home to a cellular repeater system to improve mobile performance even in the most confined locations. Three internet connectivity providers will be available to tenants: AT&T, RCN and Comcast. With same-day sign-up and speed options available, residents will be able to stream movies, play games, digitally communicate with loved ones and start remote work the moment they move in. 

Fast and secure Wi-Fi will stretch throughout Optima Lakeview’s extensive amenity areas, allowing tenants to remain connected throughout the whole building. Each residence will also contain dedicated and protected media panels for telecommunications equipment. 

“In today’s world, connectivity is no longer the renter’s problem; it’s now the owner’s responsibility to provide them with the best technological experiences,” Eichengrun says, “and Optima Lakeview has taken the responsibility to provide seamless and aspirational digital technology features for residents — so they don’t have to.” 

We continue looking towards the future, designing each of our multifamily properties with exceptional programming, service and technology in mind, and WiredScored’s Gold Certification of Optima Lakeview is a reflection of our commitment to these values. To learn more about Optima Lakeview visit our website. To learn more about WiredScore Certification, please visit wiredscore.com.

The Environmental Benefits of Vertical Landscaping

Vertical landscaping is a signature feature across Optima communities. In Arizona, we’re easily recognized by the lush greenery that makes itself a key element of the facade at Optima Camelview Village and Optima Sonoran Village. Most recently, we’ve even strategized how to bring our vertical landscaping to the inclement midwestern climate, with plans to incorporate it at our latest development in Wilmette, Optima Verdana.

Photo of Optima Verdana
Vertical landscaping at Optima Verdana in Wilmette.

Besides providing aesthetic value through added beauty and privacy for residents, our vertical landscaping system also serves another important purpose: bringing a broad array of environmental benefits to the natural environments in which we build.

The impact of our vertical landscaping system is something we calculated carefully through extensive design exploration, engineering and a multi-year research collaboration with Arizona State University.

The system, with self-containing irrigation and drainage, provides a haven for urban wildlife, promotes evaporative cooling, re-oxygenates the air, reduces dust and smog levels, reduces ambient noise, detains stormwater and thermally insulates and shields residents from the desert sun, all of which contributes to a sustainable urban environment.

Residents and community members alike also get to experience the direct impact of being surrounded by nature, with the vertical landscaping system serving as a connection to nature. Wherever this connection is made, it fosters a lifelong appreciation for the environment around us, and helps us all to stay mindful of the role we play in keeping that environment safe.

Green Space Spotlight: Optima Signature

In a dense urban area like Chicago, green space might look a little different. With all of our projects, we design our residences to welcome the outdoors indoors; at Optima Signature, that meant making sure residents could still get outside in the city. The green space at Optima Signature takes advantage of landscaping and contemporary, urban recreational design to embrace downtown Chicago living.

On the ground level, Optima Signature is surrounded by greenery with an inviting plaza. Lush landscaping features benches and seating areas, as functional for residents as they are for passersby or pedestrians. Kiwi, an original sculpture designed by David Hovey, Sr., adds visual movement and a playful quality to the entrance of the building.

Once inside, Optima Signature features an impressive 1.5 acres of amenity space, many of which are designed to bring residents outdoors. Heated swimming pools, outdoor terraces, herb gardens for resident use, fire pits and outdoor entertaining all contribute to making residents feel as if they’re in an outdoor oasis in the middle of the city. Strategic landscaping, plants and trees ensure a sense of privacy, despite sharing the amenities with other residents. Designed for residents in all walks of life, Optima Signature also includes an outdoor dog park and play areas for children (although there are indoor options for when the Chicago weather inevitably turns cold). In a concrete jungle, Optima Signature brings residents a bit closer to nature.

When moving to a city, many assume they’ll have to give up access to generous outdoor space. The residences, amenities and green space at Optima Signature offer the best of both worlds, all within a beautifully designed, Modernist tower that overlooks Chicago’s energetic downtown.

Sculpture Spotlight: Curves and Voids

As devout fans of Modernism, at Optima we love to experiment with form and function. That’s how Optima Co-Founder David Hovey Sr. got into sculpture. Combining his love of art with his interest in materials, David Hovey Sr. began manipulating steel to create striking sculptural pieces that play complement to Optima’s architectural spaces. Today, we’re examining one of his sculptures: Curves and Voids.

Curves and Voids at DCHGlobal Whale Bay House in New Zealand.
Curves and Voids at DCHGlobal Whale Bay House in New Zealand.

Like all original Optima sculptures, Curves and Voids can be found across our properties in various colors and sizes, as evidenced above. But what never changes is the form of the piece: Curves and Voids plays with the expression of steel and explores ideas of its potential. This play is demonstrated in grand, sweeping curves that make up the various sculptural components. Meanwhile, voids are laser cut within the sculpture’s steel planes. These holes provide gaps and textures to contrast and juxtapose the sculpture’s curves. 

The sweeping curves of Curves and Voids play perfect complement to the stark Modernist lines in our communities. At Optima Sonoran Village’s sculpture walk, Curves and Voids stands boldly expressed in natural Cor-Ten steel. The steel’s raw coloration was chosen so as not to compete with the vibrant colors in the building’s facade and landscaping. Meanwhile, at Optima DCHGlobal’s Whale Bay House in New Zealand, Curves and Voids is supersized in the courtyard, becoming a show stopping statement piece for contemplation. 

Whether we’re experimenting with form, function, size or color — at Optima we love to playfully implement sculpture as yet another component of thoughtful design.

Sculpture Spotlight: Silver Fern

As devout fans of Modernism, at Optima we love to experiment with form and function. That’s how Optima Co-Founder David Hovey Sr. got into sculpture. Combining his love of art with his interest in materials, David Hovey Sr. began manipulating steel to create striking sculptural pieces that play complement to Optima’s architectural spaces. Today, we’re examining one of his sculptures: Silver Fern.

Silver Fern in the 7160 tower at Optima Kierland Apartments
Silver Fern in the 7160 tower at Optima Kierland Apartments

Like all original Optima sculptures, Silver Fern is a piece that has many versions, varying in both size and color. But what never changes is the form of the piece: Silver Fern is a uniquely two-dimensional sculpture. Silver Fern’s two-dimensionality allows the sculpture to explore the nature of a flat piece of steel, given depth through other experimental plays. The smooth piece of steel is laser cut with circles and triangles that create depth through shadows and voids. Meanwhile, jagged edges and sharp corners play perfect juxtaposition to the soft, sweeping curve of the steel, further illuminating the material’s multifaceted ways of being.

Silver Fern at 7180 Optima Kierland
Silver Fern at 7180 Optima Kierland

The sculpture’s many adaptable forms play perfectly in our various communities. In the 7160 tower at Optima Kierland Apartments, two iterations of Silver Fern pose side-by-side, one in brilliant orange and one in striking yellow, their curves blending together to create an undulating pattern. The sculptures are seen through the front glass curtain wall by anyone walking up through the courtyard, activating the space with energy from the get-go. Meanwhile at 7180 Optima Kierland, a Silver Fern piece swathed in neon green plays bold contrast to Modernist red chairs in the lobby.

Whether we’re experimenting with form, function, size or color — at Optima we love to playfully implement sculpture as yet another component of thoughtful design.

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