Taking a Look at Non-extractive Architecture

In our journey towards a more sustainable future, architecture plays a pivotal role. At Optima®, we’re constantly exploring and embracing innovative practices that not only enhance our living spaces but also protect our planet. Among these forward-thinking approaches, non-extractive architecture stands out as a beacon of sustainable development.

So, what exactly is non-extractive architecture? It’s an approach that minimizes the environmental impact of buildings by using recycled, reclaimed, or repurposed materials. This method significantly reduces the demand for new resource extraction. While sustainable architecture is a broad term encompassing various practices, non-extractive architecture uniquely focuses on material sourcing and lifecycle. 

Unlike biophilic design, which integrates natural elements to enhance human well-being, or green building, which emphasizes overall environmental responsibility, non-extractive architecture specifically targets the reduction of raw material use. It’s a crucial step towards reducing our carbon footprint and fostering a more circular economy in construction.

Kenoteq’s K-Briqs made of recycled construction waste, Courtesy of Felix Speller

Recent examples of non-extractive materials include the K-Briq Construction Waste Bricks, a low-carbon alternative that is made of 90% recycled materials, Hybrit Steel, the world’s first fossil-free steel, which has the potential to reduce Sweden’s carbon emission by more than 10%, and Biotic, material research of biologically grown textiles made from resources like bacterial cellulose and dyed using natural plant and fruit waste. 

Globally, several projects embody the spirit of non-extractive architecture. The Bullitt Center in Seattle, with its self-sufficient and long-lifespan design, sets a high standard. The building is home to a rainwater-to-potable water system and composting toilet system, and when developing the project, builders ensured that over 360 toxic chemicals typically used in their building materials were absent from the project.  

Optima’s signature vertical landscaping system at Optima Kierland Apartments
Optima’s signature vertical landscaping system at Optima Kierland Apartments

At Optima, we embrace non-extractive architecture through xeriscaping in the use of our vertical landscaping system, which features self-containing drainage and helps reduce the waste of water while contributing to a sustainable urban environment.

The world of architecture is evolving, and non-extractive design is at the forefront of this change. Our commitment to sustainable practices is unwavering, and we invite you, our community, to join us in this exciting and necessary shift towards a more sustainable world.

The Intersection of Fashion and Architecture

Coco Chanel famously stated, “fashion is architecture, it’s a question of proportions.” While architecture can span hundreds of meters, fashion is typically crafted on a much smaller scale. Without question, however, both artful expressions involve a balance of creativity, functionality and innovation that often evolves with time. With our passion for architecture here at Optima, we’re exploring the inherent intersections between fashion and architecture, along with some talented creators who have discovered how to successfully cross the boundary that can separate the two.

An Affinity For Craftsmanship

The fields of architecture and fashion have been influenced by the same movements over time, including art, culture, economics, science and technology. And as various modernizations affecting form, materials, lighting and techniques for fabrication have changed our world, designers continue to adapt and innovate.

To be sure, designers and architects treat their creations as works of art, translating their emotions and visions through various acts of color, line, shape and form. Taking advantage of technological innovation, visionaries in both fields continue to share extraordinary new creations with the world through their exploration of glossiness, transparency, texture, color and structure. And in the process, they reinforce the intrinsic linkages between fashion and architecture that delight, surprise and inspire. 

Various selections from Virgil Abloh’s first Off-White collection, 2014

Individuals Who Have Found Success Crossing Fields

Countless individuals have elegantly walked the line between fashion and architecture. Some creatives first find themselves constructing shelters made of steel and wood but eventually shift to materials like cotton and silk for contrasting yet similar purposes. 

Virgil Abloh, the late Director of Louis Vuitton and Founder and CEO of Off-White, didn’t always work from a sewing machine. Abloh, who studied civil engineering and later received a master’s degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology, often took inspiration from his past experiences in architecture to propel his career in the fashion industry, using materials and structures uncommon to traditional fashion design. In fact, Abloh credited the inspiration for his acclaimed debut Off-White collection to Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House and exhibited it with references to both Baroque and Bauhaus art. 

Louis Vuitton Icone Bag x Zaha Hadid, 2006

Zaha Hadid, one of the most influential and iconic architects in modern history, also successfully explored the dynamic relationship between architecture and fashion throughout her career. Known for her extensive use of curvature and emphasis on linework in architecture, Hadid brought her inspirations to the fashion world to design products that had not been explored before. Partnering with various luxurious fashion brands, including Louis Vuitton, Fendi and Lacoste, Hadid created ultra-modern bags, shoes and jewelry that fused signature elements of architecture and fashion. 

Today, countless fashion designers and architects continue to dismantle the boundaries between these disciplines with innovative constructions. Renowned fashion designer Iris van Herpen recently collaborated with Netherlands-based architecture firm Neutelings Riedijk Architects to transform the national research institute for biodiversity, Naturalis. Van Herpen was inspired by the museum’s collections, to replicate erosion patterns from the volcanic island of Lanzarote.

For decades, fashion designers and architects have crossed paths and shared similar inspirations within their designs – whether they know it or not. And for decades to come, these collaborations will continue to happen, expanding and advancing the fashion and architectural world.

Sculpture Spotlight: Silver Fern

As devout fans of Modernism, at Optima we love to experiment with form and function. That’s how Optima Co-Founder David Hovey Sr. got into sculpture. Combining his love of art with his interest in materials, David Hovey Sr. began manipulating steel to create striking sculptural pieces that play complement to Optima’s architectural spaces. Today, we’re examining one of his sculptures: Silver Fern.

Silver Fern in the 7160 tower at Optima Kierland Apartments
Silver Fern in the 7160 tower at Optima Kierland Apartments

Like all original Optima sculptures, Silver Fern is a piece that has many versions, varying in both size and color. But what never changes is the form of the piece: Silver Fern is a uniquely two-dimensional sculpture. Silver Fern’s two-dimensionality allows the sculpture to explore the nature of a flat piece of steel, given depth through other experimental plays. The smooth piece of steel is laser cut with circles and triangles that create depth through shadows and voids. Meanwhile, jagged edges and sharp corners play perfect juxtaposition to the soft, sweeping curve of the steel, further illuminating the material’s multifaceted ways of being.

Silver Fern at 7180 Optima Kierland
Silver Fern at 7180 Optima Kierland

The sculpture’s many adaptable forms play perfectly in our various communities. In the 7160 tower at Optima Kierland Apartments, two iterations of Silver Fern pose side-by-side, one in brilliant orange and one in striking yellow, their curves blending together to create an undulating pattern. The sculptures are seen through the front glass curtain wall by anyone walking up through the courtyard, activating the space with energy from the get-go. Meanwhile at 7180 Optima Kierland, a Silver Fern piece swathed in neon green plays bold contrast to Modernist red chairs in the lobby.

Whether we’re experimenting with form, function, size or color — at Optima we love to playfully implement sculpture as yet another component of thoughtful design.

A Brief History of Steel

One of the most utilized structural materials in the world, you’d be hard pressed to find a construction site not making use of steel. Yet what’s now a ubiquitous material was once so hard to come by that it was regarded as heaven-sent—literally. In paying our respects to steel, we’re diving deep into its rich and storied history. 

Iron, The Metal From Heaven

Before we learned to smelt iron into steel, iron itself was an alloy hard to come by. Ancient Egyptians called iron biz-n-pt, translating to “metal from heaven.” In their time, iron did come from space, crashing onto earth embedded in meteorites. This metal from heaven had a higher nickel content than the iron dug up from the ground, making it supple, malleable and resilient—and more valuable than gems or gold. It wasn’t until 2,500 BC that miners began the arduous task of removing iron from the earth, and even then, it took hundreds more years to discover how to properly separate the precious ore and manipulate it. 

From wrought iron made in primitive smelters, to cast iron made in ancient Chinese furnaces, to iron smelted in blast furnaces, the material remained challenging to produce in mass quantities and to use for a variety of purposes. Certain crafts, such as the delicate process of clock-making, called for a material that was even more malleable, even more resilient than iron. That material was steel, an alloy made by mixing iron and carbon.

One of three Bessemer Converters left in the world, at the Kelham Island Museum.
One of three Bessemer Converters left in the world, at the Kelham Island Museum. Credit: David Dixon on Geograph, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 Deed

The Dawn of Steel

The modern steel industry was officially born in 1856 when Henry Bessemer developed a more effective and inexpensive method of producing the precious alloy. Known now as the Bessemer Process, Bessemer designed a pear-shaped receptacle in which iron could be heated while oxygen was blown through the molten metal, reacting with carbon, releasing carbon dioxide and producing a more pure iron. 

Bessemer’s process revolutionized the industry, allowing for the efficient transformation of iron into high-quality steel in mass quantities. In fact, once the steel industry in America adapted the Bessemer process too, they were able to catch up with Britain’s production, sparking an industry that generated more wealth than the 1849 California Gold Rush. 

Steelmaking in America continued to boom as technology improved, allowing for higher efficiency, safety and yield. At the end of World War I, the improved production of steel is what allowed for the invention of skyscrapers. The skyline shot upward in cities like New York and Chicago, a testament to the true strength and power of the material. Steel became a staple in the Modernist structures of masters such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, as a material that not only allowed for a fierce, durable structure, but for a simple, bold aesthetic. 

As the steel industry continues to propel forward, metallurgists seek to create more sustainable production methods, exploring electricity-based smelting and utilizing recycled steel for new projects. 

Steel and Optima

Throughout our projects at Optima, steel functions as both a structural component and a Modernist aesthetic choice. In projects such as Relic Rock and Arizona Courtyard House, we utilized Corten steel, which is a 99% recycled material. David Hovey Sr. also utilizes steel in his sculpture work, moulding the material into abstract creative expressions. From humble beginnings to its inventive usage today, steel’s versatility still inspires us to venture into new endeavors.

Optima Sculpture Spotlight: Duo

The design of interior space doesn’t end with architecture. A key component to creating engaging environments at Optima is the inclusion of art — particularly sculpture. Optima co-founder David Hovey Sr., FAIA explores new ways of expressing space, form and function through his monumental, three-dimensional sculptures in brilliantly-hued steel, including Duo, ultimately adding a new vibrancy to our carefully curated communities.


Duo at the 7160 Optima Kierland Residence Club, Scottsdale, AZ
Duo at the 7160 Optima Kierland Residence Club, Scottsdale, AZ

Originally created as a large-scale piece, Duo is a striking and abstract silhouette that evokes the image of a man and woman gazing into one another’s eyes. Hovey states that often, he doesn’t approach a piece of steel with the intention of drawing out specific imagery. Rather, he imagines how to explore form and function through the size, shape, voids and shadows, lights and sounds that emanate from the manipulation of the material. With Duo, Hovey sought to craft a study of duality and opposites through curved lines, fierce angles, symmetry and asymmetry. The human-like quality that resulted is part of the intriguing and surprising discovery from the sculpture’s true expression.

Duo now takes many sizes and colors, with one iteration adorning the front desk at Optima Signature in a brilliant pop of red. Not only does the inclusion of sculpture add a new dimension to the spaces that we design, but it allows a new avenue for exploration, discovery and expression.

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