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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!

Furniture Spotlight: Tulip Tables

As we continue to tour the public spaces at Optima communities to highlight the impeccably-curated collection of Modernist furnishings, it is always a delight to set our sights on Tulip tables, designed by the luminary architect, Eero Saarinen.

Eero Saarinen (1910-1961), the Finnish architect who conceived the St. Louis Gateway Arch, along with many other well-known structures including the Washington Dulles International Airport, also received enormous recognition for his modernist furniture designs produced by Knoll, including the Womb™ Chair.

Legend has it that Saarinen approached Florence Knoll in 1955 with his desire to explore new approaches to furniture design, evolving from his background in sculpture and a desire to create a table with a single leg.

A drawing of the Tulip Table by Eero Saarinen

So in the late 1957, Saarinen proved true to his word and broke tradition by introducing a collection of tables, initially referred to as Saarinen Tables. They feature a single central base, made from single pieces of cast aluminum and finished in black, white or platinum, that appeared to “grow like a flower” with a stem-like base, as opposed to having the more traditional standing legs. With this simple, organic shape that included a slender neck and elegant, organic proportions, the base became the focus of a large series of tables that came to be known as Tulip Tables. 

With options for circular and oval tops with tapered edges in a variety of sizes and heights, Tulip Tables were conceived from an integrated design framework that supports a cohesive human experience. They were an immediate hit once they became commercially available, in part because the single base provides visual lightness while inviting people to gather around a table unencumbered by legs. Tulip Tables delighted both residential and commercial furniture buyers with an array of color choices as well, with tops constructed of laminate or wood veneers, or made from natural materials like granite or coated Arabescato marble.

The Tulip Table found in an Optima Lakeview residence

While design trends come and go, a precious few furniture pieces remain timeless and iconic. Saarinen’s Tulip Tables are among those —  ever-elegant, minimal and sophisticated.

Furniture Spotlight: Eames Lounge Chair

What can we possibly say about the Eames Lounge Chair that hasn’t already been said before?

There’s not a collection of modernist furniture design anywhere that doesn’t feature the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman — and this is certainly the case with the curated furnishings in every Optima community. It’s always a pleasure to spotlight this timelessly beautiful expression of art, architecture, materiality and technology that sprang from the creative genius of Charles and Ray Eames.

Enter the Kazam! Machine

To appreciate the evolution of the Eames Lounge Chair, it’s helpful to understand the design process that Charles and Ray employed. It began when the couple turned their Los Angeles apartment into a workshop in 1941 and began building a device for molding plywood. Their goal at the time was to develop the capacity to apply pressure to plywood without breaking it, which would give them the opportunity to produce a host of objects that interested them at the time — chairs, sculptures, aircraft parts, leg splints and children’s furniture and toys. After many attempts and failures, the Eameses mastered the three-dimensional molding process with an apparatus for bending wood — a kind of curing oven made from wood scraps and spare bicycle parts. They called it the Kazam! machine. With its hinged and bolted curving plaster mold, the Kazam! machine allowed them to create a glued sandwich consisting of several layers of veneer, which was then pushed against the plaster mold by a membrane which, in its turn, was manually inflated by a bicycle pump.

The Kazam! Machine

The Kazam! Machine

Putting the Kazam! to Work
First produced in 1956, the iconic Eames Lounge Chair draws inspiration from a classic English Club Chair. It consists of a bent-wood frame atop a six-legged base, constructed using the Kazam! machine, and tilted at an optimal angle for comfort and ergonomics. It’s topped with supple leather, which the Eameses described as providing “the warm redemptive look of a well-used first baseman’s mitt,” in their vision to make the chair “a special refuge from the strains of modern living.”

A Standout from the Start

In an unprecedented marketing move, the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman debuted on national television in 1956. Charles and Ray Eames appeared on Home, the NBC daytime television show hosted by Arlene Francis. Aided by the warmth, charisma and humor of the Eames’, the American television viewing audience immediately fell in love with the Eames Chair. Today, nearly 70 years later, it remains one of the most significant furniture designs of the twentieth century.

The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman

Part of the permanent collections at New York’s MoMA and the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chair and Ottoman have been the subject of numerous documentary films and books, and continue to be featured prominently in contemporary design curation.

Iconic and Forever Fresh

Authentic Eames Chairs are still manufactured by Herman Miller today, much as they were in 1956. And while the Kazam! process has been streamlined and updated, it remains much the same as it was when the Eames first conceived it in their LA living room — ensuring that these uniquely timeless objects of desire remain a special refuge from the strains of modern living.

Furniture Spotlight: Table E-1027

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. Take a stroll through any of our Optima communities and you will find the Table E-1027 in beautiful settings of pristine Modernist furniture. Let’s take a closer look.

Table E-1027 is an adjustable steel and glass table designed by Irish designer Eileen Gray in 1927. Originally created for her home in the south of France by the same name, the table has since become one of Gray’s most famous designs.

The table’s design celebrates the simplicity of Modernist ideals of form and function. The table consists of two concentric forms of tubular stainless steel that are joined by two vertical tubes to adjust the height — with one of the forms serving as an adjustable arm and tempered glass functioning as the table’s surface. The story behind the design is that Gray originally conceived it for her sister, who routinely ate breakfast in bed. With a traylike surface that could be positioned comfortably over the bed, her sister could enjoy her morning routine while avoiding dropping crumbs on the linens.

Table E-1027

Without question, Table E-1027 is one of Gray’s most famous pieces, even though she was a prolific designer. In the decades since it became available commercially, Table E-1027 has come to represent the epitome of Modernist design. It is multipurpose, adjustable and portable. It works just as well in a bedroom as in a living room or sitting area. And finally, it brings refinement and tastefulness to any interior setting.

At Optima, we’re proud to include Table E-1027 in a host of spaces and arrangements for our residents and their visitors to enjoy.

A Brief History of Constructivism

As Modernism and its influence spread across the world in the early 1900s, new art and design factions emerged throughout cultures. Today, we’re exploring Constructivism, a Russian art and architecture movement that brought abstraction to the country. Learn more about the short-lived, industrial-heavy movement below:

The History of Constructivism

Constructivism popularized in the 1910s Soviet Union, the same period that the Bauhaus and De Stijl movements emerged across Eastern Europe. Constructivism was largely inspired by other modern, innovative developments of the time, specifically Bauhaus and Russian Futurism.

Constructivist artists strived to reflect the industrialization of urban society in their work. The movement’s art and architectural works combined characteristics from existing modern principles such as geometric and minimal design, with a more experimental approach.

Often staying away from ornate decorative elements, Constructivist architecture instead favored mechanical and industrial materials. This design direction also focused on space and rhythm, frequently resulting in futuristic and abstract-presenting structures.

Notable Works

Arguably the most well-known and famous Constructivist architectural work was the 1919 proposal of Tatlin’s Tower by Vladimir Tatlin. The project, which was never completed, intended to use iron, glass and steel in its design. As a towering symbol of modernity, its main feature included a twin helix — reaching taller than the Eiffel Tower — paired with four other suspended geometric structures that planned to rotate around the helix.

A model of Vladimir Tatlin’s Tatlin Tower

One of the main philosophies of Constructivism was to instill new aesthetics of the avant-garde into everyday life, which led architects to design some of the country’s most visited buildings in their unique style. The Zuev Workers’ Club in Moscow was one of many workers’ clubs to adopt the Constructivist style when completed in 1929. The composition of the building’s facade features a mix of circular staircases, stacked rectangular floors, bright pink paint and an exterior glazed treatment which was innovative for the time.

Another famous work of Constructivism is Ogonyok Magazine’s printing plant which was commissioned in 1932 in Moscow. Russian artist El Lissitzky designed the building, and it remained his only architectural creation. The dynamic building features a mansard roof and circular windows that contrast the long rectangular exterior. Although damaged in a 2008 fire, the building remains a heritage site, and in 2012 it was named a regional landmark of the country.

The printing plant for Ogonyok Magazine, 1932

Although Constructivism lost steam only a decade after emerging, its influence is found in other movements like Brutalism, and works of graphic design, industrial design, fashion, and ultimately the Deconstructivism Movement. Stay tuned for more blogs spotlighting the many subsects of Modernist architecture!

Furniture Spotlight: The Pot™ Chair

With our deep connection to Modernist furniture and designers, it’s no wonder that we continue to gravitate to the classic beauty of Arne Jacobsen’s Pot™ as an essential seating element in the public spaces within Optima communities. 

Jacobsen, the prolific Danish designer of the Egg Chair and the Swan Chair, also created the Pot™ in 1959 for the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. In 2018 the Pot™ was relaunched with a fresh take on Jacobsen’s lounge chair, revitalized for the modern interior; the original design has been preserved, but the seat and materials have been reconsidered to offer fresh options in both fabrics and leathers. 

Originally, the Pot™ decorated both the Orchid Bar and Winter Garden in the SAS Royal Hotel, Copenhagen’s first high-rise. Alongside Jacobson’s other furniture designs in the Royal Hotel, including the Swan and Egg chairs, he exclusively utilized the Pot™ to complement the organic aesthetic found in the Orchid Bar and Winter Garden. The chair was also placed on every floor in the hotel across from the elevators to function as a recognizable meeting point.

The Pot™ found in SAS Royal Hotel’s Orchid Bar

In its original conception, the Pot™ was a quiet design, meant to mimic a leaf floating in the air. And while the shape has a compact quality, it is both comfortable and spacious.

Be on the lookout for the ways we have incorporated this timeless gem into our lobbies and other social spaces next time you visit an Optima Community!

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.

Modernist Treasures: A Visit to Columbus, Indiana

When you’re feeling a bit of wanderlust and looking for beauty in unexpected places, hit the road and make a beeline to Columbus, Indiana. Just 3-½ hours by car from Chicago and 50 miles south of Indianapolis, Columbus is a small city by American standards — and yet finds itself ranked 6th in the nation for architectural innovation and design by the American Institute of Architects.

As the website for Columbus explains, “Columbus is an improbable town. Every year thousands of visitors arrive to explore its streets and study its buildings, for it is one of the rare places on earth where the idea that architecture can improve the human condition has been put to the test. It’s a small, southern Indiana community with no apparent call to destiny that remarkably became an architectural ‘mecca.’”

The Robert N. Stewart Bridge, 1999
The Robert N. Stewart Bridge, 1999

The evolution of Columbus into an extraordinary experiment in modernist architecture began in the early 1940s when the industrialist J. Irwin Miller began commissioning world renowned architects to come to the city and undertake the design of commercial and municipal buildings. 

A tour through the city will take you to a host of treasures including  First Christian Church by Eliel Saarinen, the Irwin Union Bank, Miller House, and North Christian Church by Eliel’s son Eero Saarinen, and the Cleo Rogers Memorial Library by IM Pei. These commercial buildings and houses of worship expressed the deep beliefs held by J. Irwin Miller about the power of great architecture to shape the civic experience. 

Besides being meticulously preserved, the buildings are situated in proximity to impressive public art installations that include works by Henry Moore, Dale Chihuly, Jean Tinguely, and Robert Indiana.

First Christian Church, Eliel Saarinen, 1942
First Christian Church, Eliel Saarinen, 1942

Adding to the caché and allure of Columbus is a feature film that has drawn even greater attention to this unique metropolis. Columbus is a 2017 American drama written, directed, and edited by Kogonada was shot on location in 2016 over a period of 18 days. The film follows the son of an esteemed architecture scholar who gets stranded in Columbus and strikes up a friendship with a young architecture enthusiast who works at the local library. The film premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and was released in the United States by the Sundance Institute, receiving broad acclaim from critics. 

When planning a visit to Columbus, visit the city’s comprehensive website for a guide to the city’s architecture or to schedule a tour. And if you want to get inspired in advance, you can stream the film Columbus on Amazon Prime.

Women in Architecture: Neri Oxman

As part of our ongoing “Woman in Architecture” series, we’re shining a spotlight on one of the world’s inspiring creatives, Neri Oxman. With a rich background in architecture and a drive to create, there was no question whether she would become the ingenious architect and designer she is today. Today, we’re diving into Oxman’s momentous life, work and achievements. 

The Life of Neri Oxman

Oxman was born on February 6, 1976, in Haifa, Israel. Both of her parents taught architecture, and growing up, Oxman spent much of her childhood immersing herself in her parent’s studio, which helped her establish a desire for creation at a young age. 

Originally, Oxman attended medical school in Israel, but after just two years, she realized that her interests belonged elsewhere. She began her architecture studies at Technion Israel Institute of Technology but eventually transferred to the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London – one of the most prestigious architecture schools in the world – where she graduated in 2004.

In 2005, Oxman traveled to the United States, where she began her Ph.D. studies in architectural design and computation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Throughout her research at MIT, Oxman discovered her passion for environmental design and digital morphogenesis – a type of generative art. Oxman also launched her own research project titled material ecology – a term she coined – to experiment with generative design. 

Design Philosophy

Oxman launched her research project material ecology – a term she coined – in 2006 while studying at MIT to experiment with more facets of generative design. Material ecology, Oxman’s design philosophy, combines aspects of 3-D printing techniques with biology, engineering and computer sciences to build objects and structures through natural growth instead of assembly. 

The advanced philosophy also places humanity in harmony with nature, which is a principle of sustainable and regenerative design. Through her work, Oxman hopes to shift from consuming nature as a geological resource to instead editing nature as a biological resource. Oxman’s philosophy has led her to utilize biological shapes and textures throughout many of her designs. 

Notable Work and Achievements

Much of Oxman’s early work involved only 3-D printing. At MIT, she founded the Mediated Matter research group where she has created almost all of her structures and designs – large and small. Oxman’s innovative 3-D projects range in size from complex enclosures to detailed pieces of clothing.

Silk Pavilion, Neri Oxman, 2013

Some of Oxman’s most famous works utilize fabrications created by animals or other natural processes, including Silk Pavilion. The installation was created in 2013 with the help of 6,500 free-ranging silkworms that wove layers of silk onto a Nyon-framed dome. The completed project resulted in a stunning moon-like pavilion. The method of creation was recreated in 2020 for Oxman’s Silk Pavilion II, which resides in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. 

Inspired by vibrant marine life, in 2013, Oxman collaborated with renowned fashion designer Iris Van Herpen and materials engineer Craig Carter to create Anthozoa. The 3-D-printed dress used a mixture of hard and soft materials that were crucial to its movement and texture. Oxman worked with Carter again in 2014 for a project called Gemini, a chaise lounge chair consisting of a milled wood frame and a 3-D-printed upholstery. The intricate chair was designed with the intent to recreate a womb-like environment.

Anthozoa, Oxman, Iris Van Herpen and Craig Carter, 2013

Oxman and Mediated Matter have also prototyped various new tools for printing since the group’s founding. A few of the groundbreaking technologies include a printer that can create sections of rooms and an unprecedented glass printer. Alongside her extraordinary work, Oxman has also received many architecture and art awards as well as achievements throughout her career. 

  • Senior Fellow in the Design Futures Council
  • London Design Festival Design Innovation Medal, 2018
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Contemporary Vision Award, 2019
  • Dezeen’s Design Project of the Year for Aguahoja, 2019
  • Honorary Royal Designer for Industry by the Royal Society of Arts, 2021
Gemini, Oxman and Carter, 2014

Oxman’s illustrious career has led her to collaborate with some of the most resourceful designers in the world, further catapulting her unique philosophy into the spotlight of the design world. Today, she continues working with the Mediated Matter group experimenting with different forms of generative design, and teaches at MIT as a tenured professor.

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