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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 Americandrama written, directed, and edited byKogonada 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 the2017 Sundance Film Festival and was released in theUnited States by theSundance 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Our love of mid-century classic furniture can be found throughout all of the Optima communities. And with our soft spot for iconic seating, it’s no surprise that the famed Bertoia Side Chair is a staple in many of our amenity spaces. Let’s take a closer look.
About Harry Bertoia Born in San Lorenzo, Italy in 1915, Bertoia built an international reputation as an artist, sound art sculptor and modern furniture designer. After leaving his home at the age of 15 to join his older brother Oreste in Detroit, Harry embarked on a career that centered on the exploration of modernist ideas and ideals, often in collaboration with some of the greatest thinkers and visionaries of that era.
In 1936, a one-year scholarship to the School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts allowed Harry to study painting and drawing. He entered and placed in many local art competitions, said to be the most awarded student up until that time. The following year, another scholarship took him to the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Working among some of the most famous artists and designers of the modernist age, including Eero and Eliel Saarinen, Charles and Roy Eames and Florence Knoll, Bertoia’s creativity and mastery of materials flourished.
Bertoia as Furniture Designer Bertoia was first exposed to furniture design at Cranbrook when Eero Saarinen and Charles Eames entered and won the Organic Furniture Design Competition sponsored by the Museum of Modern Art. In fact, Bertoia developed his initial chair design ideas while working with Charles Eames and others in California in the late 1940s, which he later incorporated into his work.
Bertoia eventually left Eames to join the Point Loma Naval Electronics Laboratory. While there, he learned how to study the human body to design control panels and knobs that focused on comfort for reach and grip. This sensitivity to ergonomics contributed significantly to Bertoia’s fascination with designing well-fitting practical chairs.
In 1950, at the invitation of former classmate Florence Knoll and her husband Hans, Harry moved to eastern Pennsylvania to work at their emergent furniture company Knoll, Inc. Florence had seen Harry’s work at Cranbrook, heard he had left Eames, and knew that he had enormous promise as a furniture designer. The Knolls offered him the opportunity to design what he wished with full credit and complete recognition of his work, which was their policy with all designers.
About the Bertoia Side Chair Once on staff at Knoll, Bertoia was asked to develop hospital furniture, but he preferred to work with healthy bodies. He gravitated towards metal as his material of choice, and he continued to experiment with it until he landed on the concept of the wire grid, which could be shaped at will. with it until arising at the wire grid concept that could be shaped at will to conform to the human body. This was a radical departure from the use of rigid wood, which was characteristic of the late 1940s and early 1950s furniture. He not only created the airy welded metal design of the chairs, but also devised the production molds used for mass manufacture.
Knoll produced the first Bertoia chairs in 1952 — an amazing collection of furniture that reflects a profoundly beautiful study in space, form and function. As with other designers of his time, including Mies van der Rohe, Bertoia found infinite elegance in an industrial material, elevating it beyond its utility into a work of art.
Today, the Bertoia collection remains one of the great achievements of mid-century modern furniture design by one of the master sculptors of the last century and a proud part of the Knoll heritage.
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.
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.
Previously, in our Women in Architecture Series, we highlighted the streamlined, industrial style of the modernist designer and architect Eileen Gray, which you can read here. Of her many projects, Gray’s French Riviera villa, E-1027, remains most notable. Over time, the grandiose structure fell into ruins, but following an extensive restoration project, Gray’s Villa E-1027 has reopened to the public.
In its prime, one of the property’s most beloved visitors was Le Corbusier. Following his death, the villa experienced neglect from numerous tenants for years. However, the property was purchased in 1999 by the French agency, Conservatoire du littoral, to oversee its protection and preservation. Later, in 2014 they established the Cap Moderne Association to manage the rehabilitation. After six years of comprehensive restoration work, the E-1027 villa mirrors the original design that was completed in 1929 by Gray and her husband, Jean Badovici.
The project aimed to restore both the exterior environment and the interior fixtures of the villa. Inside, new built-in and free-standing furniture and artwork reflect the villa’s original lived-in state from nearly a century ago. Visitors are invited to consider how Gray pioneered an interpretation of modernist warmth with welcoming internal fixtures that contrast the villa’s sometimes cold, concrete structure.
On the exterior, vibrant blue awnings covering the outdoor walkways offset the villa’s bright white walls. The “house by the sea” is intended to be a living organism within the structure’s larger atmosphere. Surrounded by lush greenery and landscaping on its north and south-west sides and built on pilotis just above a plunging cliff into the sea, the villa successfully fulfills Gray’s goal of being harmoniously integrated into its environment.
Timed tours of this modernist wonder are currently available for small groups looking for a getaway. You can learn more about E-1027 and how to visit it on Cap Moderne’s website here.