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Modern Interpretations of Le Corbusier’s Celebrated Designs

Celebrated as the pioneer of modernist architecture, Le Corbusier’s contributions to architecture and design remain as significant as ever. And although much of his work is nearly a century old, designers continue to draw inspiration from his inventive principles. Take a look at how designers are still responding to Le Corbusier’s theories of modernism today. 

This year, the international contemporary art gallery, Galerie Philia, displayed Héritages. Found at Cité Radieuse, a Le Corbusier housing complex built in 1952, the exhibit featured works by eight international designs referencing the functionality and minimalist design elements Le Corbusier famously employed through his work. 

And although the exhibition featured work from multiple designers, each piece united through a visual response or reinterpretation of Le Corbusier’s theories. While some artists showcased work heavily influenced by Le Corbusier in the exhibition’s “resonance” area, others provided pieces opposing his theories in the “dissonance” area. 

Arno Declerq’s steel daybed in the “resonance” room, Photo by Maison Mounton Noir

Belgian designer Arno Declercq contributed a sculptural daybed for the “resonance” room, inspired by both Le Corbusier’s famous furniture designs and his architectural contributions. The minimalist design features a structure of steel, a material Le Corbusier often used throughout his architecture. Paired with the daybed, architect and designer Pietro Franceschini contributed a chunky brutalist chair upholstered with vibrant yellow velvet, deeply inspired by Le Corbusier’s bold yet functional armchair designs. 

In the exhibit’s “dissancane” room, American visual artist Jojo Corväiá explores imbalance with his standout ceramic table. Using volcanic clay, Corväiá designed the table with the intent of displaying its cracks and irregularities, a practice from which Le Corbusier strayed. Designer Roxane Lahidji also contributed to the room, adding a sculpted chair of marbled salts. The stretched seat and arched base make reference to the fragility of organic designs. 

Jojo Corväiá’s volcanic clay table in the “dissonance” room, Photo by Maison Mounton Noir

In addition to the furniture, artist Flora Temnouche created three oil paintings for the space. The paintings touch on the inertia of nature, partially inspired by the sparse relationship to nature Le Corbusier’s approach to design and architecture employed.

Considered one of the most influential figures in contemporary design, Le Corbusier’s work continues to create inspiration across the world today. And, thanks to Galerie Philia’s Héritages exhibition, artists and designers continue to honor and reflect the transformative work, bringing it new meaning and life. Explore the rest of the exhibition’s bold work here!

Curated Furniture at Optima Lakeview: The Noomi Chair

As with all of the exquisitely curated furniture selections at Optima, the focus is always on comfort and functionality, timeless minimalist design, flawless engineering and superb materials The NOOMI chair, the brainchild of renowned Danish designer, Susanne Grønlund, is no exception, and fits handsomely into the interior spaces of our latest development, Optima Lakeview

Since 1991, Grønlund and her studio in Aarhaus, Denmark have earned a reputation for innovative, thoughtful design that’s rooted in Scandinavian traditions. In creating her Noomi Swivel chair in 2013, she set out to combine aesthetics with practicality. Recognizing that people want to sit comfortably AND easily turn to speak to others in an intimate setting, Grønlund designed a soothing, smooth-swiveling chair on a 360-degree base.

With references to branches on a tree, the delicate and slightly bent legs seize the upper part of the NOOMI Chair and create a strong graphic expression where steel and fabric meet in harmony. The frame is light, but distinctive with an elegant humanly-contoured shape that makes the soft, rounded upper part of the chair — with its strong backrest and traditional manual padding — look like it’s hovering above the floor. 

The Noomi Chair in a two-bedroom residence at Optima Lakeview

With the focus on form and function, Grønlund took great pains to ensure maximum comfort with the NOOMI Chair. The angle of the backrest to the seat has been carefully resolved, and the wide armrests are comfortable. The chair invites various sitting positions as it signals the priorities of comfort and rest. 

With such flawless design, it isn’t a surprise that the NOOMI chair has garnered a number of awards, including the Good Design® Award (2017) and German Design Award (2018).

We’re not only happy to have NOOMIs welcoming residents in Optima Lakeview but in many of our other communities at Optima, where the ideals of form and function continue to inspire all of us.

Women in Architecture: Lilly Reich

As part of our ongoing “Women in Architecture” series, we’re spotlighting an often overlooked contributor to the Modernist Movement, Lilly Reich. Popularly known for being a close confidant and collaborator of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Reich was a spearhead of the times in her own right, contributing many acclaimed designs that are still prominent today. Learn more about her extraordinary life and work below:

The Life of Lilly Reich

Lilly Reich was born on June 16, 1885, in Berlin, Germany. Throughout her childhood and early adult life, many of her interests belonged to the arts and crafts, specifically embroidery. At 23 years old, Reich traveled from Germany to Vienna, Italy, where she found work at Josef Hoffman’s visual arts production company. Reich continued to explore her passion for embroidery in Vienna, and thanks to the many other artists and designers who worked with her, she eventually discovered new mediums, including textile, clothing, and even designing store windows. 

In 1911, Reich returned to her home in Berlin, where she was determined to find a career. Less than a year after moving back, she became a member of the Deutscher Werkbund, or German Work Federation. After shifting her design focus from textile and clothing to other forms of design like furniture and interiors, Reich’s professional reputation quickly blew up. And, in 1920, after eight years in the Deutscher Werkbund, she became the first woman elected to its governing board. 

A tubular steel footed daybed designed by Lilly Reich and Mies van der Rohe
A tubular steel footed daybed designed by Reich and Mies for a client, 1930, Courtesy of MOMA

Reich was working at Frankfurt’s Trade Fair Office in 1924 when she first met Mies. They immediately formed a connection that sparked a decades-long period of collaboration between the two. Continuing her dominance in design at the time, Reich became the creative director for Germany’s contribution to the Barcelona World Expo in 1929. The Expo’s most notorious contribution included the Barcelona Chair, which was designed by Mies and Riech respectively. Reich and Mies continued collaborating until his emigration to the United States in 1938. 

The Work of Lilly Reich

Reich’s ambition and adaptability also carried over into her career. While working with Mies, Reich designed several furniture series of tubular steel – one of the only women doing so at the time besides Charlotte Perriand. Inspired by the modern technology and materials of the time, she contrasted the coolness of steel with warm materials such as wood and leather – a staple of her creations. The furniture designs included everything from chairs and tables to bed frames and day beds. 

A design sketch of a cooking cabinet that takes the appearance of a closet.
Designs for Apartment for a Single Person, Lilly Reich, 1931, Courtesy of MOMA

Reich’s contribution to interior design expanded beyond furniture. In 1931, for the German Building Expo in Berlin, she embraced the ideals of domestic reformers of the time and designed Apartment for a Single Person. A radical idea for the time period, the design featured a cooking cabinet that took the appearance of a closet. However when opened, it revealed a sink, shelves, drawers and plenty of counter space. 

As a woman in her field during the early 20th century, Lilly Reich found a way to break traditional barriers and establish herself as a leader of the Modernist Movement. Whether collaborating with other visionaries like Mies or contributing her own ambitious designs, Reich always found a way to leave her mark on society, securing a legacy few can achieve.

Curated Furniture at Optima Lakeview: the Womb™ Chair

One of the ways we honor the Forever Modern promise and keep it relevant at Optima is by curating both public and residential spaces in our communities with timeless furniture. As we put the finishing touches on the furniture selections for the lobby and model apartments at Optima Lakeview, it’s a perfect time to take a closer look at the Womb™ Chair.

In 1946, Florence Knoll, the pioneering architect who led the furniture empire Knoll Associates with her husband Hans, reached out to friend and fellow architect Eero Saarinen to design a lounge chair for the company. In numerous interviews following the release of the chair, Knoll explained, “I told Eero I was sick and tired of the one-dimensional lounge chair … long and narrow … I want a chair I can sit in sideways or any other way I want to sit in it.” She envisioned “a chair that was like a basket of pillows … something I could really curl up in.”

Originally named No. 70, the chair quickly took on its more intuitive name as people raved about its countless positions and the deep sense of comfort and tranquility it provides. “There seemed to be a need for a large and really comfortable chair to take the place of the old overstuffed chair,” Saarinen explained. “Today, more than ever before, we need to relax.” 

Apart from its novel appearance, the Womb™ chair is also highly innovative from a structural perspective. To achieve a balance between comfort and a modernist silhouette, Saarinen wanted to construct the chair out of a single piece of material. This led him to a groundbreaking new material that had recently been developed to produce minimalistic, yet-durable hulls for Navy vessels during World War II. He then turned to a New Jersey boat builder to use this reinforced-fiberglass-and-resin to produce a prototype of the cropped, folded cone shape he had designed. The final result — a padded and upholstered fiberglass shell that sits on a polished chrome steel frame — combined simplicity of shape with true comfort and flexibility.

A sketch of the Womb™ chair, designed by Eero Saarinen, courtesy of Bob Ewing

Once released, the Womb™ chair quickly became a cultural icon. A 1958 Coca-Cola advertising campaign showed Santa Claus drinking a Coke in a Womb™ chair. The chair also made an appearance in a New Yorker cartoon as well as a Saturday Evening Post cover by American Painter, Norman Rockwell.

Discover the iconic Womb™ Chairs as part of our invitation to “Expect the Extraordinary” when you visit Optima Lakeview. Experience for yourself what it means to lounge in absolute comfort and modernist simplicity, just as Eero Saarinen and Florence Knoll imagined 75 years ago.

Modern Furniture 101

As our tagline “Forever Modern” implies, Modern design is integrated into every part of our business and our work. Our inspired interiors are no exception; full of Modernist artwork, sculpture and furniture, the interiors of our properties reflect the same principles and aesthetic. So what exactly is Modern furniture, and what distinguishes it from other furniture styles? 

A Brief History

Like Modernism itself, Modern furniture design developed in a post-World War II environment that necessitated cutting excess waste, focusing on functionality, and reevaluating the practicality of materials in design. Compared to the decorative styles before it like Victorian, Art Nouveau and Neoclassical, Modernism was a striking departure into new territory. This drastic shift from ornate, decorative pieces to minimal pieces is attributed to new technology, changes in design philosophy and the direction of architecture at the time. Since then, Modern furniture has become an iconic part of interior design history. 

How to Spot Modern Furniture 

Functionality, clean lines, smooth shapes, bold colors and minimal design are all common aspects to Modern furniture. Most iconic pieces of Modern furniture pioneered new uses of materials such as glass, steel and leather, so those are common signs to look for. Odds are, you’ve seen Modern furniture before, especially if you’re in the design or real estate industry. Barcelona chairs, Noguchi coffee tables and Le Corbusier lounges are commonplace in many residential buildings and homes, in the United States and around the world. 

Amenity space at Optima Signature
Amenity space at Optima Signature

To explore the individual and detailed history behind the pieces, here’s a more complete list of popular Modern furniture pieces. Within our practices at Optima, Modern furniture plays a critical role in completing our vision for each space we create. Our Modernist sense of design through architecture and furnishings helps us tell a holistic, intentional story through design. Without this consistency, our buildings and amenity spaces would seem incomplete. Though rooted in the past, Modern furniture integrates beautifully with a bright, inspired future. 

Modern Design at Optima with Knoll

Design permeates every corner of our communities. Across our multi-family properties, we utilize furniture designed by globally renowned Knoll to craft spaces that are sleek, modern and comfortable. Not just purveyors of elegant and stunning design, Knoll also has a history entangled with our own, beginning back in 1938.

Modernist Roots

Knoll was founded in 1938 by Hans G. Knoll, a German immigrant based in the United States. Familiar with the seminal Bahaus School of Design and Modernist masters like Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, he founded Knoll on the belief that modern architects would need functional, modern furnishings.

Later, Hans Knoll engaged with (and then literally got engaged to) Florence Schust, who studied with Mies van der Rohe at the Armour Institute in Chicago, and worked in the architectural offices from Gropius and Breuer in Boston. Her understanding of Modernist architecture, and the Bauhaus and Walter Gropius himself, transformed the Knoll approach to furniture design, placing new focus on offering objects that represented design excellence, technological innovation and mass production.

The Risom arm chair designed by Knoll at Optima Sonoran Village
The Risom arm chair designed by Knoll at Optima Sonoran Village

Their strong vision attracted high-profile collaborators, such as Isamu Noguchi, who contributed to a collection of furnishings now heralded as classics in the pantheon of modern design. With a repertoire of pieces spanning including the Wassily chair, the Barcelona chair, the Tulip chair; over 40 Knoll designs can be found in the permanent design collection of The Museum of Modern Art in New York City. 

As seminal collaborators with the Modernist architecture discipline, Knoll is a natural fit for our modern residential and commercial spaces. Their executive designs embody elegance, craftsmanship and emblematic details across seating, tables and desks. The thoughtful and artistic creations of Knoll bring expansive history, elevated design and of course, comfort, to our communities.

A Brief History of the Swan Chair

An iconic piece in modern furniture design, the Swan chair’s fluidity and endless curves make it both a comforting perch and a sight to behold. Often swathed in vivid colors, the Swan chair makes a bold statement incorporated into striking interiors across our Optima communities.

An Iconic Design

The Swan chair was designed in 1958 by Arne Jacobsen, the same architect and designer who created the Egg chair. Alongside the Egg chair, the Swan chair was originally crafted for the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen (also architected by Jacobsen). The chair let hotel guests spin its swivel base and rotate 360 degrees to take in the bustling hotel atmosphere, while cocooned in comfort. As a chair with no straight lines, the Swan was a technological innovation in furniture design. Created in the Danish modern style, the chair swiftly became an icon.

A Feat of Engineering

Prior to designing the Swan chair, Jacobsen (and other furniture designers of his generation) were constrained by the pliability of the materials they used, which at the time, were stiff and difficult to sculpt. However, the introduction of molded foam a new, flexible material rewrote the rules. Through experimentation with the new product, Jacobsen found the freedom to shape fluid curves and single-piece molded shells. 

The Swan chair, originally made from Styropore, is now made from polyurethane foam, both inventive materials that allow for the chairs’ continuous shape. The shell of the swan is made of molded synthetic material, and covered by a layer of cold foam. The swiveling base, always star-shaped, includes a satin-polished, welded steel tube and a 4-star base in injection molded aluminium. With upholstery options available in a variety of textiles and colors, the Swan chair easily adapts to lobbies, lounges and homes across the world.

Throughout our residential spaces, Swan chairs are right at home in our Modernist buildings, reflecting the same passion for form and function. Easily employed in entry lobbies, lounges across the community or even commercial office space, the unique curves and comfort of this sculptural chair leave a lasting impression.  

 

A Brief History of The Egg Chair

Of the many interior design pieces within our buildings, the egg chair is arguably the most distinct. Its round shape, curved edges and cocoon-like nature are as inviting as they are fascinating. A staple accent in many Optima projects, the Egg chair has its own colorful past that has led it to its present-day prominence throughout the world of interior design. 

A Scandinavian Start

In the mid-1950s, the Scandinavian Airlines System enlisted Arne Jacobsen to design downtown Copenhagen’s Royal Hotel. Jacobsen, a Danish architect and designer, is one of the best-known designers of the 20th century and one of the pioneers of Danish modern design. He was a crucial contributor to architectural Functionalism and his keen sense of proportion is most well-known throughout his wide range of furniture designs. 

In designing the Egg chair, Jacobsen kept in mind both function and form with a chair that would allow travelers passing through the hotel to relax, swivel and recline. The high, curving sides allowed for a bit of privacy, a much-needed amenity after a long journey. The chair was lightweight at only 17 pounds, allowing the hotel staff to move and rearrange them as necessary. Even 60 years after its first debut, the Egg chair is still an iconic piece of design history, beloved by both residential and commercial spaces. 

The Egg chair has a colorful past that has led it to its present-day prominence throughout the world of interior design.
Optima Old Orchard Woods | Skokie, IL

The Eggs at Optima

Throughout our residential spaces, Egg chairs serve as a complementary accent piece to our Modernist buildings, reflecting the same passion for form and function. The curvaceous seat is adaptable, pairing well with everything from white walls to colorful surroundings. As they did when they were first designed, egg chairs serve a variety of functional purposes: a fresh pop of color, a nod to the Modernist style, a place to relax at the end of the day or a cosy reading spot to enjoy your favorite book. However they’re utilized, these design icons are a Modernist staple and one of our favorite pieces of unique furniture.

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