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.
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.
One of the reasons we were inspired to move to Arizona was our love for the surrounding desert landscape, and that same passion still resonates across our Arizona communities. An iconic landmark in the greater Phoenix area, Camelback Mountain is a prime example of the way nature informs our own designs through its neighboring Optima communities, Optima Sonoran Village and Optima Camelview Village. But Camelback Mountain has its own distinct allure, fostering a wide-reaching and beloved sense of community for many in the area.
Camelback is located in the Camelback Mountain Echo Canyon Recreation Area between the Arcadia neighborhood of Phoenix and the town of Paradise Valley, and is named after its distinct shape, which resembles the hump and head of a kneeling camel. The site has long held significance to Native tribes and settlers in the area, and by the early 1900s, there were strong efforts to keep the mountain protected and preserved. The surrounding area saw major development, but in 1965, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater helped secure the higher elevations against development. The area became a Phoenix city park in 1968.
Phoenix offers seven breathtaking mountain summits to climb, and Camelback Mountain has the highest, reaching 2,704 feet to provide the best views in the area. Climbing to the summit is considered a right of passage for many. Hikers can choose from two trails to reach the summit: Echo Canyon and Cholla. Both trails are difficult, with Echo Canyon being the steeper of the two and Cholla being the longer option. Luckily, there are a few less strenuous trail hikes as back-up options, as well. Camelback is the perfect place to experience the vast diversity of desert beauty; from colorful granite, to blooming wildflowers, to local wildlife. And since the trailhead is only 20 minutes away from downtown, there are plenty of places to recharge after a long hike.
There’s a reason why Camelback Mountain is considered one of Phoenix’s Points of Pride; the beauty both on — and off — the mountain top are truly spectacular.
When Optima expanded to Arizona in 2000, we were enthralled by the new frontier and its unique climate. To this day, we continue to be inspired by the desert landscape — and there’s no better place to indulge that passion and find new inspiration than at the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden. The gardens, which are located just a short drive from Optima Biltmore Towers in Phoenix, and Optima Sonoran Village and Optima Camelview Village in Scottsdale, are also perfect activity for our residents.
The Desert Botanical Garden
The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix is a 140-acre sprawling wonderland of flora and fauna nestled among the red rocks of the Papago Butte. Visitors can see thousands of species of towering cacti, lush trees, alluring succulents and brilliant flowers from not just Arizona, but all over the world. Overall, 50,000+ plants cover five thematic trails, and the garden is proud to care for 485 rare and endangered species among that number.
The garden was first established back in 1939, when a small but passionate group of Arizonians were compelled to act and preserve the beautiful desert environs. Among them was Swedish botanist Gustaf Starck, who rallied others to the cause with a posted sign reading “Save the Desert.” Eight decades later, Desert Botanical Garden has expanded, thanks to the generous investment and care of many. Alongside its impressive collection of plantlife, the garden also offers specialized tours, special events, seasonal exhibits, concerts, family exhibits and two places to dine: Gertrude’s restaurant and the Patio Cafe.
The Desert Botanical Garden has reopened during COVID-19 with increased safety precautions in place. Tickets must be reserved in advance, but the garden’s limited occupancy amidst its sprawling gardenscape makes it the perfect place for socially distanced fun. Whether you’re looking to reconvene with nature or just while away the day in a beautiful setting, the Desert Botanical Garden is the perfect place to find inspiration and relaxation.
A striking piece that complements the surrounding green space at Optima Camelview Village, Windsong creates a bold statement that both contrasts with and engages its environment. As with Kiwi, Duo and other original Optima sculptures, Windsong was designed by David Hovey Sr., and today we dissect its form and how it integrates into a larger context.
To stand out against its colorful backdrop, Windsong stands more than 15 feet tall, providing a dramatic addition to the Arizona desert foliage. The sculpture is oriented around a rotating turntable, allowing the top pieces to move with the flow of the wind. Through movement and size alone, Windsong celebrates and embraces the elements, subtly alluding to Scottsdale’s connection to and love of nature.
With a mixture of color and shapes, Windsong also evokes a playful and enthusiastic energy. Each piece of the sculpture is composed of both sharp corners and rounded edges, a culmination of form that emits joy.
Optima’s passion for public art, both inside and outside our building, is a reflection of our dedication to engaging, beautiful spaces. Whether it’s through architecture, design or sculpture, we’re in constant pursuit of creating meaningful homes that have a lasting impact.
A hallmark of Optima properties is our integration of the built environment with the natural. Oftentimes, we employ terraces—level platforms incorporated into buildings that allow for plantlife to thrive—that allow our buildings, and their residents, to live in harmony with the surrounding landscape. The usage of terraces is one that dates back for over 12,000 years, evolving over the millennium to be the sophisticated components of urban architecture that they are today.
Terraces of Ancient Times
The word terrace is derived from terra, the Latin word for earth. The technique has been in use for over 12,000 years, first utilized as an ancient farming method in hilly regions. Agricultural terracing involved cutting the land into a series of successively receding flat platforms, much like steps, to allow for more effective farming, by decreasing erosion and surface runoff and increasing the effectiveness of irrigation.
In 9800 BC, ancient civilizations realized that they could adapt this technique to buildings, and they began to add terraces to their homes and other domestic structures. This first usage was seen across the globe, from the Middle East to the Pacific Islands. The most famous interpretation is undeniably King Nebuchadnezzar’s Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Although no actual proof of its existence has been found, depictions show an ascending series of tiered gardens abundant with plantlife, complete even with a waterfall.
Thousands of years later, from 3000 BC – 600 BC, Mesopotamians grew gardens atop ziggurats, terraced religious temples that allowed for religious spaces to become placed ever higher. The structures were placed upon many layered platforms, and it’s believed that ziggurats were what inspired the Biblical parable The Tower of Babel.
Terraces continued to be integrated into homes. Around 1500 AD, Venice adopted terrace design to the tops of their homes, called altanas. Altanas were private, slat-floored roofs. They started out as a place to hang laundry out to dry, but continue to be used today as social spaces.
Terraces in the Modern Age
Following the progression of altanas as a place to socialize, people began more and more to use the terrace as a location to congregate in privacy. Private rooftop and per-unit terraces became luxury amenities in the 1920s, when building height began to increase due to the adoption of the elevator. At that time, terraces become a status of wealth, allowing for privacy, fresh air and separation from the increasing bustle of life on city-level.
Today, the use of terraces continues to flourish, finding increased purpose and urgency in response to population growth and a changing environmental climate. They provide private places to reconvene with nature, away from the bustle of the city. Terraces also create sustainable and contributive space, by providing thermal insulation, solar shading to mitigate air pollution, increased biodiversity and enhanced quality of life.
At Optima, we incorporate terraces to create private social space, to integrate nature into our communities through our signature hanging gardens, and to contribute to our sustainability practices at many of our properties, including Optima Camelview Village, Optima Sonoran Village and Optima Kierland. Terraces at Optima serve as outdoor living space, connecting the outdoor and indoor for a seamless living experience. From agricultural beginnings, the terrace stays true to its roots, allowing us to find harmony with nature.