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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.

Optima Communities: Exploring Wilmette’s Rich History

With groundbreaking underway for Optima Verdana in Wilmette, IL, we’re discovering this vibrant community and all it has to offer — including its rich history.

Bordering Lake Michigan and located 14 miles north of the Chicago Loop, Wilmette is recognized as one of the most prestigious communities in the nation. It started as a small settlement on Chicago’s North Side in 1872 and by the mid-twentieth century, it emerged as a distinctive, desirable suburb with unique vitality, extraordinary walkability along tree-lined, brick streets and a character all its own. 

Fast forward to today, when Wilmette, with a population of nearly 30,000, has fully matured into a vibrant community. Small businesses and lively restaurants flourish, each bringing a refreshing offering to this thriving, 21st century livable village. The lakefront, parks and gardens are all within easy reach. Culture abounds with music, theater, art and cinema. And the Wilmette schools are considered among the best in the country.  

As luck would have it, 2022 marks the 150th anniversary of Wilmette. As celebrations for this important milestone continue throughout the year, Wilmette is proud to showcase its reputation as future-facing while showing a deep appreciation for the past, including a host of events that shine a light on its delightfully eclectic history.

Bahá'í House of Worship
Bahá’í House of Worship

Mark your calendars…

To start the sesquicentennial year, all are welcome to the Wilmette Historical Museum’s  annual meeting and lecture via Zoom. John Jacoby, former Village President and Wilmette Beacon columnist, will discuss his recent book Wilmette at 150, a collection of essays on Wilmette. Mr. Jacoby’s talk will explore the lost landmarks of Wilmette. Learn about the stories of the significant buildings and other structures that are no longer in existence, including some of the oldest in Wilmette, such as the Big Tree and the Unity Church. Hear fascinating tales of Dr. Martin Luther King’s visit to the North Shore, the German POW camp in Harms Woods, the colorful history of No Man’s Land, the perseverance of world pushup champion Chick Lister and Public Enemy Number One Baby Face Nelson’s demise on Walnut Avenue.

You can stay connected to all the sesquicentennial happenings on the Wilmette at 150 website. And to attend the meeting and lecture, which will take place Sunday, January 30, 2022, from 2:00pm – 3:30pm,

Register HERE.

2021: A Year in Review

As we kick off 2022, we want to take a moment to reflect on how we’ve continued to grow, learn and serve others over the past 12 months. Here are just a few highlights:

Awards

We were honored to receive a total of 9 awards this year! Our design and architecture were recognized with the AIA Chicago Firm of the Year Award, AIA Chicago Design Excellence Awards – Distinguished Building Award (Arizona Courtyard House), and Chicago Athenaeum’s American Architecture Award twice (Optima Kierland and Optima Sonoran Village). 

Art Baril, our Maintenance Manager at Optima Sonoran Village was awarded the Gold Facilities and Maintenance Manager of the Year by Multi-Housing News at their 2021 MNH Excellence Awards. 

Our culture and values were also acknowledged in 2021 with the AZCentral Top Companies 2021 Award and Best Places to Work in Chicago for the second year in a row. 

To see the full 2021 lineup, visit our awards page here

Projects and Properties

This was a significant year for development, construction, leasing and more at Optima. In Chicago, we continued construction at Optima Lakeview, which is nearly complete. The project is the first multifamily development to achieve the WiredScore Home Gold Certification in North America. We also returned to our roots on the North Shore where we broke ground on our newest development, Optima Verdana, and plan to introduce our signature vertical landscaping system to the Midwest.

In Arizona, our leasing team worked tirelessly to lease up our new 7140 tower at Optima Kierland Apartments, and our second condo building, 7180 Optima Kierland, closed out. We also broke ground on the fifth and final residential tower at Optima Kierland, 7190 Optima Kierland which will open in 2023.

Culture

Throughout 2021 our culture at Optima continued to thrive through richly rewarding avenues of kinship and connection. We celebrated the autumn season with our second annual pumpkin carving and costume contest, observed Diwali, the festival of lights, and shared laughs and stories while celebrating our successful year at company outings at Topgolf and a Chicago Cubs Game. We also enjoyed the return of in-person happy hours during the year.

Our team continued to embrace and internalize our shared values more than ever. We gave back to the communities we live in by volunteering at the Skokie Lagoons on the Chicago North Shore, picking up trash at the boat launch. We also took the opportunity to acknowledge eight Optima employees with our Core Values Award for their exceptional representation of our beliefs throughout their work. 

We can’t thank our leadership, team members and Optima communities enough for making 2021 one to remember. Heading into 2022, we are excited to continue innovating and achieving great things together.

How to Keep Active in the Winter With Optima Fitness Centers

When the weather turns cold and the days get shorter, it can be difficult to stay true to our fitness goals. As part of Optima’s commitment to creating happy and healthy communities, we’re constantly developing ways to keep residents active throughout the year. In all of our buildings, residents will find incredible fitness and wellness amenities to stave off winter blues.

Indoor Basketball/Pickleball

The basketball courts at Optima provide generous spaces for individuals or groups to build endurance and strengthen their bodies, and they are thoughtfully designed to effortlessly flow into the modern design around them. Residents can step onto the courts to spend time doing drills or to join a pickup game. And as pickleball becomes evermore popular, many of our courts are now fitted out to accommodate this popular game, giving each space greater versatility.

Yoga 

For those looking for vigor, balance, stretching and meditative activity, Optima’s yoga studios are the perfect answer. Our yoga studios are fantastic for residents to learn more about themselves, practice mindfulness and discover new ways of staying active. Maintaining a routine yoga practice provides mental and physical health benefits, including improved energy and vitality. And, similar to all of our other amenity spaces, our yoga studios serve as spaces to build community and connect with other Optima residents who might share the same values.

Optima Lakeview’s state-of-the-art fitness center

Expansive Fitness Centers

Included in each of our apartment communities and many of our condominiums, Optima’s expansive fitness centers offer residents endless opportunities to focus on their health and wellness. At Optima Lakeview, the fitness center has been outfitted with top-of-the-line cardio equipment, a weight room, a light-filled studio for yoga and stretching and locker rooms with complimentary towel service. Residents can also take advantage of yoga classes and personal training, along with outdoor clubs for runners, bikers and nature lovers.

Swimming Pool at 7140 Kierland
Rooftop sky deck pool at the 7140 tower at Optima Kierland Apartments

Swimming Pools

No discussion of fitness and wellness amenities at Optima would be complete without showcasing our swimming pools. Many of our communities, including Optima Kierland, Optima Sonoran Village, Optima Signature and Optima Lakeview, offer beautifully-designed indoor and/or outdoor swimming pools — ideal for lap swimming and water aerobics — as a central feature of our impressive rooftop sky deck spaces. While the health benefits of swimming are compelling year-round, they are especially powerful in the cold winter months when a regular pool routine can be both invigorating and relaxing.

Rooftop Sauna at Optima Kierland Apartments
Rooftop Sauna at Optima Kierland Apartments

Saunas

A favorite among Optima residents, our rooftop saunas are a relaxing way to stay healthy throughout the year. While they aren’t a means to be active, saunas come with a wealth of  benefits, providing residents with an opportunity to reduce stress, relieve pain and recharge. While the benefits of using a sauna are seemingly endless, with cold weather, hopping into a heated room might be the only motivation you need.

At Optima communities, residents never have to fear the impact of winter on their mobility or on their peace of mind. With our healthy environments and distinctive amenities, mental and physical health are always a priority.

The Health Benefits of Saunas

Saunas have been health staples in cultures around the world for thousands of years. The oldest saunas, found in Finland, are thought to date from around 2,000 BC and used stones to create high temperatures and dry heat in the winters. In Korea, domed structures often warmed by kilns appeared in literature as early as the 15th century. In the Orkney’s of Scotland, stone structures thought to incorporate the use of steam date back to the neolithic age. 

In modern times, the most common saunas used in western culture originate from Northern Europe and have temperatures around 212 degrees Fahrenheit and relatively low humidity. They remain today a staple of health and wellness, and can be found at spas, resorts, poolsides, gyms, and even private homes and bathrooms. 

Saunas are known for their numerous health benefits. When an individual spends time in a sauna, the heat causes their heartbeat to increase and their blood vessels to widen, improving circulation. Saunas are comforting, calm spaces that promote relaxation and, paired with the improvement of circulation, can reduce stress levels and improve overall cardiovascular wellbeing. 

Dry saunas, especially, are known for their positive impact on heart health. They also reduce the symptoms of rheumatic diseases such as fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. Dry saunas are known for relieving skin conditions such as the itchiness from psoriasis. There is some evidence that dry saunas also may improve athletic performance.

Indoor Sauna at Optima Signature
Indoor Sauna at Optima Signature

When it comes to enjoying a sauna, for optimal benefits, most experts recommend around fifteen minutes per sitting and allowing your body time to rehydrate and cool down before resuming normal activities. 

Saunas are a wonderful way to relax and boost both cardiovascular and overall health. The use of saunas is an ages-old practice that prioritizes bodily and mental health, spans around the globe, and persists today.

The Environmental Benefits of Vertical Landscaping

Vertical landscaping is a signature feature across Optima communities. In Arizona, we’re easily recognized by the lush greenery that makes itself a key element of the facade at Optima Camelview Village and Optima Sonoran Village. Most recently, we’ve even strategized how to bring our vertical landscaping to the inclement midwestern climate, with plans to incorporate it at our latest development in Wilmette, Optima Verdana.

Photo of Optima Verdana
Vertical landscaping at Optima Verdana in Wilmette.

Besides providing aesthetic value through added beauty and privacy for residents, our vertical landscaping system also serves another important purpose: bringing a broad array of environmental benefits to the natural environments in which we build.

The impact of our vertical landscaping system is something we calculated carefully through extensive design exploration, engineering and a multi-year research collaboration with Arizona State University.

The system, with self-containing irrigation and drainage, provides a haven for urban wildlife, promotes evaporative cooling, re-oxygenates the air, reduces dust and smog levels, reduces ambient noise, detains stormwater and thermally insulates and shields residents from the desert sun, all of which contributes to a sustainable urban environment.

Residents and community members alike also get to experience the direct impact of being surrounded by nature, with the vertical landscaping system serving as a connection to nature. Wherever this connection is made, it fosters a lifelong appreciation for the environment around us, and helps us all to stay mindful of the role we play in keeping that environment safe.

The Health Benefits of Being Outdoors

Considering we all spent a lot of time indoors in 2020, we’ll take any excuse to get outside this summer. Thankfully, there are numerous mental and physical perks to spending time in the great outdoors, whether it’s on a hiking trail or on your own terrace. Here are just a few of the many health benefits of being outdoors:

Boost Your Mood

Studies have shown being outdoors lowers levels of cortisol, a hormone that’s a marker for stress. Spending some time outside can help with stress, anxiety or depression, not to mention the added physical benefits of just spending a few minutes in the sun. Vitamin D helps with bone growth, regulates your immune system and can help battle depression. Even if it’s just a quick reset, getting out of the house and into nature can really boost your mood.

Improve Your Vision

Just like we’ve all spent more time inside over the past year, we’ve also spent more time on our screens. Whether you’re back in the office or working from home, your eyes probably need a break. Staring at computers, tablets and smartphones for long periods of time can cause Computer Vision Syndrome, but spending time outdoors can alleviate blurred and double vision, red eyes and headaches.

Photo of Optima Signature 7th Floor Outdoor Deck
Optima Signature 7th Floor Outdoor Deck

Refresh Your Focus

Nature and green space lets our brains take a break from the chaos of life (and in some cases has even reduced symptoms of ADHD). Spending more time outdoors is also linked to higher levels of concentration, creativity and improved mental clarity.

We hold these health benefits in high esteem, and it’s one of the many reasons 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.

person name goes here

Maintenance Supervisor

Glencoe, IL





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