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The Role of the Courtyard in Optima® Communities

In a former Forever Modern post, we shared a brief history of the courtyard. From their earliest uses around 6000 BC in the Jordan Valley, courtyards have evolved into physical settings that enable people to interact harmoniously with others — and with their natural surroundings.

Within the Optima® culture, we never grow tired of exploring relevant, resonant expressions of the courtyard within the communities we design and build. Over the past several years, we have turned our attention to the role of courtyards in our projects in Chicago — Optima Lakeview® and Optima Verdana® — as an integral element in creating an elevated sense of home.

Take the atrium at Optima Lakeview®. Sharing the same properties as a courtyard, this distinctive architectural feature is a stunning landscaped interior volume that runs through the building’s 7-story core and is enclosed by a fixed in-place skylight at the roof to bring natural light into the building’s interior. The residential units and building amenities are arranged around the atrium. In its central role, the atrium serves as a public space flooded with light, filled with plants and flowers, and outfitted with comfortable seating where residents and their guests can linger and enjoy the outdoors, even with the Midwest’s seasons might not make it hospitable to be outdoors.

A rendering of Optima Verdana’s lounge and residential courtyard

Exemplifying our passion for opportunities to engage with nature and organic environments is a vibrantly landscaped courtyard found in the heart of Optima Verdana® in Wilmette. The open-air space serves as a lush oasis for residents and is home to 7’ high garden walls, verdant trees, restful seating and more than 1,500 light-filled square feet. Beyond the tranquility and sheer beauty of the abundant plantings in the courtyard, residents enjoy remarkable access to reoxygenating air, natural light and the absence of ambient noise. It’s no surprise that the building is a proud recipient of two Green Globes from the prestigious Green Globes® Building Certification program, acknowledging that the building’s courtyard design contributes to the larger eco-friendly environment!  

At Optima, we celebrate the power of connection — to nature and to each other — as we express it through timeless architecture complimenting the built environment.

Being a Good Neighbor Makes a Difference

With a commitment to community as one of our core beliefs at Optima®, it’s no surprise that we are tuned into the notion of neighborliness and what it means to be a good neighbor. We take great satisfaction in nurturing the desire for connection and engagement with residents across all of our communities and love to keep abreast with research that lends new insight into why it matters to know your neighbors.

In a recent Axios piece, published on July 27, 2022, Erica Pandey explores “The power of knowing your neighbors.” Drawing data from a Pew Research Center study conducted in 2019, here’s what we’ve learned:

A majority of Americans don’t know most of their neighbors — and they barely talk to the ones they do know.

Why it matters: Strong communities boost the health, happiness, and longevity of their residents. Befriending neighbors ensures a helping hand in times of need and provides new friends to explore your larger neighborhood. But over the last several decades, our connections with our neighbors have been fraying.

What’s happening: We’re leaving our homes with screens in our hands. And since the pandemic made us even less likely than we were before to stop and chat with new folks, most of the people living around us are strangers.

Optima Lakeview’s communal sports lounge, golf simulator and basketball/pickleball court

Thankfully, each of our Optima Communities supports plenty of opportunities to engage with fellow neighbors, whether you know them or not! We design spaces that inherently bring people closer to each other, closer to their environment and closer to themselves. This intention manifests itself from the thought-provoking artwork that fills the hallways of each community to the wealth of communal amenity spaces, including fully outfitted sports areas, movie theaters, party and game rooms and state-of-the-art fitness centers. 

Along with our state-of-the-art amenities, each of our onsite teams carefully curates a variety of social events and programs throughout the year. From hosting food trucks and music and cocktail nights to flower arranging courses and fitness classes, we take the time to understand each of our residents’ interests, so we can thoughtfully tailor our programming around them!

And because we not only see the value in having a tight-knit community within our walls but within our broader neighborhoods, we created the Optima® Connect Program. Through the program, residents in each of our multi-family communities receive exclusive benefits and discounts to local businesses around their larger communities, further fostering a friendly community ecosystem.

Supporting connection among our residents and neighbors is something we care deeply about at Optima. So, what’re you waiting for? Step outside and spark a conversation today!

Alfresco Cooking in Optima Communities

Warm weather, fresh air, and BBQs are all defining aspects of the perfect summer. Across all of Optima’s communities, we provide residents with abundant outdoor space to celebrate living well, and to engage with each other around alfresco cooking and dining. 

Our passionate approach to design creates a linkage between architecture and nature throughout each of our communities, but it’s in Optima Kierland, Optima Sonoran Village, Optima Signature, Optima Lakeview and our latest project, Optima Verdana, where residents will find extensive amenity spaces that include outdoor kitchens and communal grills on their sky decks, and additional private grills in select terraces. 

For those who are fans of alfresco cooking and dining, here’s your chance to hone your grilling skills with the great American staple — the hotdog. Whether you’re a pro or just getting the hang of it all, here are two great recipes to get you up to the sky deck with your chef’s hat and tongs…

Chicago-style hot dog
Chicago-style hot dog

Chicago-Style Hot Dog

Since Optima’s roots are in Chicago, we have to highlight the classic Chicago-style hot dog. The best part about the Windy City staple is how easy it is to prepare! All you need is a hot grill and all of the delish garden-fresh ingredients! Find the recipe here

Sonoran hot dog
Sonoran hot dog

Sonoran Hot Dog

While Chicago is famously known for its unique take on the hot dog, Arizona propels the standard bite to a whole different level with the Sonoran hot dog. Like its standard cousin, the Sonoran is topped with tasty condiments, but what makes it unique is its bacon-wrapped exterior. Find the recipe here

The outdoor kitchens, communal grills and private grills are just some of the many ways we design our residential and communal spaces to invite the outdoors inside. Connecting to nature is an easy way to take some time and connect to yourself and to the environment around you.

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.

Green Space Spotlight: Optima Lakeview

Open green space can be a difficult convenience to find in many Chicago neighborhoods and properties. However, that isn’t an issue with Optima residences and buildings; we strive to welcome the lush and lively Chicago greenery inside our doors. Our newest development, Optima Lakeview compliments the neighborhood surrounding it with outdoor terrace landscapes, a vibrant sky deck, and nature bridging indoor atrium. 

Optima Lakeview offers communal spaces outdoors that otherwise would be hard to find in the bustling neighborhood for many. Landscaped terraces, full of ornate and healthy foliage provide lush welcoming spaces for many to enjoy the modern architecture that surrounds them over a warm fire pit and private grill for year-round grilling. 

The highlight of Optima Lakeview, however, is its 3,600 square foot indoor atrium. Acting as the heart of Optima Lakeview, the atrium allows for integrated access to both units and amenities. The expansive space, designed by Optima CEO David Hovey Sr., welcomes visitors from the lobby with abundant floor-to-ceiling greenery utilizing Optima’s signature vertical landscaping. Abundant natural light floods the space as glass ceilings open the room to the sky deck and rooftop pool above. For residents, the landscaped center of the atrium that is home to an abundance of vegetation invites the guise of living in an oasis.

Optima Lakeview three-bedroom model residence

Like the green spaces in our other developments, Optima Lakeview’s supply of lush greenery allows our residents to enjoy a wealth of benefits. Green areas in urban environments help absorb excess heat and pollution and provide residents with ample space to stretch and engage around vegetation, improving cardiovascular health and relieve stress. And while urban living is often individualistic, grand communal spaces like Optima Lakeview’s atrium and sky deck promote community and social cohesion.  

At Optima, we are dedicated to bringing the outdoors into our communities. The picturesque private terraces, one-of-a-kind indoor atrium and other lush amenities at Optima Lakeview welcome that outdoor experience and allow us to fashion a sanctuary of our own. 

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.

Natural Stone: A Timeless Staple of Architecture

At Optima, we celebrate the fundamental connection between design and nature. It’s this philosophy that often inspires the design in our communities, including our newest, Optima Lakeview. One of Optima Lakeview’s most exceptional features is the stunning natural stone that lines the first floor. Today, we’re taking a closer look at a classic architectural material, natural stone. 

The History of Natural Stone in Architecture

Stone is a timeless material used in some of the world’s most admired architectural works and monuments, from the Colosseum to the Washington Monument. The centuries-old resource, dating back nearly 12,000 years, has found its use in nearly all aspects of architecture and remains relevant today. 

In its early use, quarried stone was utilized to create walls, columns and piers. For centuries, entire cities were made of stone, making it an essential building resource. As technology advanced and more sophisticated construction methods metamorphosed, stone began appearing in archways, windows, facades and other stunning building accents.  

The Colosseum, famously built with natural stones such as travertine, lime and marble

With time, materials like iron and concrete became an easy replacement for natural stone in architecture and helped to allow the construction of skyscrapers in the 19th and 20th centuries. The natural resource then became a popular staple for exteriors and cladding exclusively. However, today, architects are again embracing stone in full force, and it’s found on everything from kitchen tables to living room walls. 

Natural Stone in Optima

Each of Optima’s Illinois communities — Optima Lakeview, Optima Signature and the in-progress Optima Verdana — feature one-of-a-kind granite flooring throughout their main levels. Granite, which is only one of many natural stones used in Optima Communities, perfectly compliments Optima’s commitment to artistry and elevated living, amplifying each atmosphere housing the stone.  

Optima Kierland’s landscaped courtyard featuring a natural stone water feature

We embrace the organic here at Optima, which is why you can find more than just granite in most of our communities. Other uses of natural stones include stunning, polished quartz and granite for kitchen and bathroom finishes throughout our communities and even in Optima Kierland’s courtyard’s sparkling water feature. 

Even after a millennium of use, architects and designers continue to discover new adoptions for natural stone in buildings today, making it a timeless staple of the architecture world.

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.

Angie Chache Team Member Spotlight

Our passionate team at Optima is the heart and soul behind each of our communities and embodies all of our values daily. We recently sat down with Angie Chache, Optima Lakeview’s Property Manager, to learn more about her journey to Optima Lakeview and what excites her the most about this extraordinary new property. 

Tell us a bit about your background and the role you play at Optima.

I have been in residential property management for almost 20 years, managing different types of communities in a Property Manager and Regional Manager role. With Optima Lakeview, I am the Property Manager, so I oversee the site itself. I’m responsible for the entire building and its system of operations, and because I’m jumping in just as the building is being completed, it will be my first lease up. I am excited about it!

What drew you to Optima initially, and what’s kept you working there?

Initially, a conversation with Ali Burnham, the Marketing Director, introduced me to the vibrant project they were building here. My first experience with an Optima community was actually Optima Old Orchard Woods; I was drawn to its classical modernist architectural style. So when the opportunity to join the team at Optima Lakeview came up, I was very excited. At Optima, there is this wonderful collaboration between all departments. With most companies, the architect/designer and developer/builder are separate entities. So at Optima, where we do everything essentially under one roof, I observe that things go much more smoothly on the operations side of things.

How do you view the concept of community at Optima? How does it differ from other properties/buildings?

Community at Optima means providing exceptional and curated experiences for our residents. The buildings are designed with extensive amenity spaces so they can seamlessly function as an extension of our residents’ homes. Our tagline at Optima Lakeview is Expect the Extraordinary, which I believe speaks for both the building’s outstanding architecture and the rich community we are creating within it. 

One of our philosophies that encompasses our value around relationships and community is called the Optima Way. The Optima Way sets the stage for Optima experiences that are very unique and customized for every one of our residents. We strive to get to know every resident, what they like, what they don’t like, and how we can make all of their experiences unique. It’s about being encouraged by our company culture to create extraordinary encounters for the residents. When you live in an Optima community, it’s more than just living in any generic apartment; it’s about what residents can enjoy when they’re here and what we can do as a team to curate living experiences just for them. 

There are a lot of luxury properties in the market, but what differentiates us is our suite of services. The resident events we frequently host are incredibly special, including fitness classes and kid-focused events (we’re one of the only communities doing this). And our grand amenity spaces are unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Residents at Optima Lakeview are going to feel like these spaces are an extension of their home. Some areas feel private, and others are great spots to gather with friends…because when you have that much space to spread out, it’s going to feel like home.

Optima has a unique set of values that differentiates it from other company cultures. How does that affect the quality of your work life? What values matter most to you?

My bucket gets filled every day. Yes, there are challenges and days that are hard, but there is also support and fluidity between the departments. We all work for the same company which, on the Property Management side of the business, makes my job so much easier. The two values that speak to me the most are that we build strong lasting relationships and that people are — and always will be — the most important pieces of the puzzle. 

In my career, relationships — whether it be with employees, vendors, or residents — have been at the forefront of my values, and I always want everyone to feel welcomed and appreciated. Optima allows me to curate experiences for people and provide amazing customer service, and it isn’t typical of companies to have the customer at the forefront. Many companies say they value that, but Optima acts on it.

What makes you most proud to be a part of the Optima team?

The beautiful ,innovative designs of our buildings, how we impact our residents’ lives, and the intentional way we work to be a part of the communities we build in. I never really understood the thought put into Optima’s communities before I started working here. We strive to build long-lasting relationships and partner with businesses surrounding our community so our residents and the surrounding businesses can benefit from those partnerships we form.

I’m also proud of the way we give back to the communities where we have built. Recently, we partnered with Lakeview Pantry and worked there for a day, which allowed us to see the lives that are impacted daily by this organization right here in the Lakeview neighborhood. We are excited to partner with them long-term and see how our community can help support such an important cause.

With move-ins scheduled for the spring, what elements of Optima Lakeview should new residents be most excited about?

Everything! We have 198 units with 52-floor plans, which means sometimes there may only be one unit of a particular floor plan, so our uniqueness provides a sense of exclusivity. I can’t wait for residents to see our 7-story atrium that will be filled with an abundance of natural light and the vibrant vertical landscaping that will live inside of it — similar to the vertical landscaping we do on the exteriors of our Arizona communities. We will have 40,000 square feet of amenity space for only 198 residences. Our skydeck with 360-degree views of the city will also have a heated pool and jacuzzi that can be used year-round — even when it’s snowing. And, we’ll have private terraces that range from 300 square feet up to 2,000 square feet, some with private grills and firepits. Our community is like no other in this neighborhood.

Curated Furniture at Optima Lakeview: the Bertoia Side Chair

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.

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Maintenance Supervisor

Glencoe, IL





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