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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.

Women in Architecture: Lilian Rice

As part of our ongoing “Women in Architecture” series, we’re spotlighting an eco-conscious architect of the early 20th century, Lilian Rice. Inspired both by the historic Spanish Colonial design she grew up in and the organic philosophy that influenced her throughout college, Lilian Rice left an impressive mark on the architecture of Southern California. Learn more about her extraordinary life and work below:  

The Life of Lilian Rice

Born on June 12, 1889, Rice grew up in National City, California, just south of San Diego and only 10 miles north of the Mexican border. Her father, Julius Rice, was a prominent educator in the state and her mother, Laura Rice, an amateur painter and designer, both empowered her to pursue her interests in education and the arts. 

Growing up, Rice was heavily inspired and influenced by the abundant Spanish Colonial culture and architecture in the area, including the many adobe homes. In 1906, she moved to Northern California, where she started attending school at the University of California, Berkeley, where she studied architecture. Rice joined the school’s Architecture Association shortly after and quickly rose to a leadership position. At school, she also discovered her philosophy of holding a deep respect for each project’s surroundings and striving to protect their natural environments. 

Lilian Rice, The Claude and Florence Terwilliger Home, 1925, Courtesy of Don Terwilliger

Following her graduation in 1910, she moved back home to National City to care for her mother and acquired a job working with San Diego architect Hazel Wood Waterman – the city’s first female architect. While working for Waterman, Rice also spent time teaching at San Diego High School, leaving her influence on many future architects, including Samuel Hamill, FAIA. 

Notable Works and Achievements

In 1921 Rice’s career catapulted when Richard Requa and Herbert Jackson hired her as an associate in their architecture firm. During her first year, Requa and Jackson assigned Rice with designing a Civic Center for Rancho Santa Fe – an up-and-coming subdivision – which she eventually gained leadership over in 1923. 

Lilian Rice, The ZLCA Rowing Clubhouse, 1932, Photograph by Diane Y. Welch

From then on until 1927, the majority of Rice’s work involved developments and expansions within Rancho Santa Fe. Many of the projects she designed in the subdivision are listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, including the Claude and Florence Terwilliger House and the Reginald M. and Constance Clotfelter Row House. In 1928, after she had received her architect’s license from California, Rice made the ambitious decision to open her own architecture firm.

Following the launch of her firm, Rice began working outside of Rancho Santa Fe, allowing her to step away from the Spanish Colonial style she was known for into more organic approaches. Even throughout the depression, Rice’s career excelled in the 1930s when she designed some of her most familiar works, including the Paul Ecke Ranch home, and both a boathouse and a clubhouse for the San Diego ZLAC Rowing Club in 1932.  

Lilian Rice, Mixed-use building holding La Valenciana Apartments and Rice’s office, Rancho Santa Fe, 1928

Alongside her work, Rice has been a recipient of many architecture awards and achievements, including: 

  • AIA Honor Award, Chrstine Arnberg Residence, 1928
  • AIA Honor Award, ZLAC Rowing Club, 1933
  • AIA Honor Award, La Valenciana Apartments, 1933
  • 11 buildings listed to the National Register of Historic Places

Through her diverse catalog of architecture projects, Rice filled Southern California with more than 60 unique homes. And while the Spanish Colonial Revival was prevalent at the time, Rice was one of the leading architects who helped make it widespread throughout the state, leaving a reputation little can compare. 

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!

Community Architecture Across The World

Community means everything to us at Optima, which is why we bring thoughtful design to each project, committed to supporting and uplifting every resident. Historically, architecture has been a dominant tool for many to build and sustain communities, and recently, community architecture has taken on a more prominent role in the discourse surrounding living environments. Learn more about community architecture and some of the practice’s most visionary examples below: 

What is Community Architecture?

Community architecture is a collaborative building experience between both an architect and the users of the built space. The movement originated in the mid-20th century when architects across the world began to see that people wanted more say in shaping what they lived in and how they lived. 

Because it was such a radical idea at its inception, some architects who took charge of the movement experienced ridicule. Minette de Silva, in particular, was unsupported in her efforts to build Sri Lanka’s first Public Housing Project in collaboration with its residents. The result, however, was a triumphant success, like many other community architecture projects across the world. 

The interior of the Losæter Bakehouse during a community event

Losæter Bakehouse, Oslo

What originated as a mere art project in 2011 has turned into one of the world’s most functional community-built projects. The intricate design behind the main building, the bakehouse, operates as a place of creative production and a gathering space for communal interactions. 

The structure appears still under construction or repair, but the wooden skeleton and window-filled walls intentionally mimic the past. Both the structure’s versatile purpose and its boat-like canopy design are odes to the country’s rich history, reflecting on the cultural significance of Bakehouses and maritime history. 

The exterior of The Momentary

The Momentary, Bentonville, Arkansas

From serving as a hunting ground for the indigenous Osage nation to being transformed into a cheese factory, the land on which The Momentary resides in Bentonville, Arkansas, has a long, rich history. Today, however, the land is home to the adaptive reuse art museum. The original structure – which is still 80% preserved – was completed in 1947, and, with the help of Wheeler Kearns Architects, the newly constructed museum finished construction in 2020.

Instead of trying to gloss camouflage the branches of history rooted in The Momentary’s land, they intentionally embraced them, designing an accessible hub that supports community members through cultural programming, education, engagement and enjoyment. 

The interior of The Night Ministry’s headquarters featuring a vibrant mural, Photo courtesy of Kendal McCaugherty, Hall + Merrick Photographers

The Night Ministry, Chicago

In 2020, The Night Ministry – an organization encompassing health care, housing, outreach and other social services – welcomed its new home, also designed by Wheeler Kearns Architects, in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood. The former manufacturing facility became transformed into the organization’s headquarters and is home to their overnight shelter, The Crib. 

Parts of the original manufacturing facility were repurposed to reduce waste when constructing the new headquarters, including flooring, windows and heavy timber. Vibrant murals around the interior alongside multipurpose programming spaces and a communal kitchen and dining space also help to reflect the collaborative nature The Night Ministry displays. 

The best architecture attracts people and allows them to feel a true sense of ownership of their living environment. And, because more and more architects are discovering the importance of doing just that in their projects, community architecture shows no signs of slowing down. 

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.

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.

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