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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.

Rooftop Amenities at Optima Lakeview: The Sky Deck

Chicago boasts of the best skylines in the country, and there is no better place to revel in the city’s one-of-a-kind architecture than Optima Lakeview’s very own sky deck. And not only does the sky deck provide views of the city from the lakefront to Wrigley Field, but it also allows residents to enjoy the fresh air year-round with access to a range of unique, extensive amenities. 

Optima Lakeview’s unparalleled sky deck has a surprise around every corner. From the resort-style pool and spa that stays heated for year-round use to the fire pits featuring lounge seating, residents will be able to go for a swim or relax at any moment. Our design provides plenty of ways for residents to stay physically and mentally healthy and embodies our dedication to creating spaces where residents can be active, inspired and entertained. 

Because of the sky deck’s versatility and unique amenities, the space is more than just a hub for wellness and relaxation, it’s also a space for residents to connect with their larger community. The BBQs, outdoor kitchens and theater provide the perfect opportunity for families and friends to convene and enjoy a movie and dinner under the stars. The space also features a glass-enclosed party room where residents have access to an extensive lounge area for entertaining. And, with views spanning the whole city, and Wrigley Field only a half-mile away, the Sky Deck provides the perfect opportunity for Chicago Cubs fans to throw their own viewing party. 

The sky deck at Optima Lakeview
The sky deck at Optima Lakeview

Optima Lakeview’s sky deck exemplifies our dedication to inventive, distinctive amenity spaces that leave a lasting impact on our residents. However, the sky deck isn’t the only extraordinary amenity Optima Lakeview affords. Residents can find more than 40,000 square feet of amenity space, including an indoor basketball court, golf simulator, fitness center and more. Stay tuned for more Optima Lakeview spotlights, or learn more here.

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. 

Immersive Art: The Fusion Between Art and Technology

Whether you’re in Chicago or Scottsdale, immersive art exhibitions are quickly becoming the latest trend, unveiling a new approach for art lovers to savor their favorite works and artists. What separates these shows from what you would expect to see at a traditional museum or gallery space?

The History of Immersive Art

While immersive art may seem like a new phenomenon to many of us, immersive experiences can be traced back centuries. One of the finest examples can be found in the architecture of the middle ages. Employing stained glass in the construction of churches was often used to create an otherworldly experience for patrons. As natural light floods through each window, colors fill the interior, telling a vibrant visual story.

More recently, thanks to the help of modern technologies that include virtual reality, holography and digital projection, immersive experiences have transformed how we can view works of art, enabling us to explore each piece as a protagonist within it. 

The objective of immersive art lies in entertainment, taking 2D environments and metamorphosing them into 3D worlds often filled with accompanying music. Video projection mapping programmed individually for each immersive environment makes sure that every inch of the space is sure to be covered, further enveloping the audience in the engaging work. 

And while many spaces are utilizing immersive technology to revamp older works, ambitious artists are also constructing their own participatory installations. Yayoi Kusama, a Japanese artist, has been creating immersive work since the 1960s. Kusama’s most famous installation, Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli’s Field, uses dozens of mirrors to augment the perception of the stuffed polka dot sculptures she created, and because of those mirrors, casts the visitor as the work’s subject. 

Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli’s Field, Yayoi Kusama, 1965

Experience A Show For Yourself

Chicago offers a variety of immersive art experiences. Just South of Lincoln Park and within close proximity to Optima Signature and Optima Lakeview at Lighthouse ArtSpace, the Van Gogh, and Frida Kahlo exhibits continue to run throughout the summer, transporting visitors into both of the artist’s worlds. Other, more traditional immersive art experiences include the Museum of Illusions, Sky Shows at the Adler Planetarium, the upcoming Museum of Ice Cream exhibit coming to The Shops at Tribune Tower and the Illinois Holocaust Museum’s onging exhbit, The Journey Back: A VR Expeerience

Scottsdale and Phoenix also offer a variety of engaging installations to choose from. Just walking distance from Optima Sonoran Village is Scottsdale’s Lighthouse Artspace, found in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale, is home to the Immersive Van Gogh and Klimt exhibits scheduled to run through July. Wonderspaces, another extraordinary venue in Scottsdale Fashion Square, features an evolving lineup of interactive installations and signature cocktails.

Immersive art has always been a revolutionary way to interact with different crafts, and thanks to technology, not only is it becoming more innovative but more accessible. With the trend on the rise, there’s sure to be no shortage of immersive art experiences, and we’re excited to see what modernisations come next.

The Health Benefits of Living With Art

No matter which Optima community you’re in, you’ll find yourself surrounded by art. Whether it’s Ellison Keomaka’s inspiring paintings found in several of our Arizona properties or the vibrant sculptures created by our CEO and Founder David Hovey Sr., FAIA, each piece of art in our communities brings with it not only a story — but a wide range of health benefits, too. Here are just a few of the benefits of living with art: 

Keeps Your Mind Active

Similar to the feelings you get when you interact with a loved one, viewing art increases blood flow to the brain, kickstarting a wave of pleasure and positive memory-building while allowing the viewer to practice their cognitive skills. Whether looking at a landscape, portrait or an abstract work, because art is truly subjective, it allows the brain to explore different areas we may not use in daily life. This free-thinking stimulates the mind and strengthens it similar to the way learning a new language does. 

Reduces Stress Levels

Art therapy is regularly used as a natural way to reduce anxiety and other mental disorders in everyone from children to older adults, and even if creating art isn’t your cup of tea, living with art provides the same benefits. Viewing art can calm the brain through the most trying circumstances by allowing it to focus on a singular thing. Worries and stressors are minimized as your mind directs its attention to the relaxing and often inspiring art pieces around you.

Encourages us to Emotionally Heal

Because artists use their work as a way to give shape to their ideas and emotions, living with art encourages us to explore our emotions and past experiences. By viewing art, it’s common to feel transformed and to be taken to places beyond our reality. This metamorphic experience improves well-being and, depending on the person, can be sensorially, emotionally and even spiritually mending. 

Whether you need an inspiring escape, want to relive positive memories or simply crave a masterpiece of your own, the health benefits behind living with art are boundless and accessible by everyone.

Arcosanti: Creating a City

Known for his unique approach to architecture, Paolo Soleri brought the philosophy of arcology to numerous of Arizona’s most stunning environments. In Cosanti, he welcomed his otherworldly construction elements to the surroundings of Scottsdale. Today, we’re spotlighting another of the architect’s treasures, which embraces all of Soleri’s design principles on a much grander scale, Arcosanti

Inception of Arcosanti

Following the completion of his first build, Cosanti, Soleri began to explore more behind the meaning of arcology – a word he coined himself to label if design philosophy. What he began to discover was just how significant ecologically sound human habitats were to the ideology. 

In 1970, following the release of his book Arcology: The City in the Image of Man, in which he detailed the concept of cities embodying the fusion of architecture and ecology, Soleri began developing his own planned city, Cosanti. The project – found roughly 70 miles North of Scottsdale – was built to exhibit how urban environments can be elevated while minimizing negative impacts on the surroundings. 

Arcosanti’s ceramics apse, one of two that reside in the planned city

Arcosanti is built on 25 acres of a 6.25 square mile property, and though originally planned to house 5,000 people, the community is home to a population that varies from 100 to 150 throughout the year. Because the planned city is ever-changing, construction and development continue today due to the many students and volunteers who call it home. 

Architecture

The magnificent community currently consists of 13 major structures, ranging in size and purpose and featuring diverse design features unique to the town. One particular feature is the site-cast tilt-up concrete panels used to support various buildings, expressing similar patterns to the earth around them, some even cast in embedded art. 

Other attentive design features include the southward orientation of most buildings designed to capture the most natural light and an apse – similar to Cosanti’s – built to house the community’s bronze bell-casting space. 

The city also features essential builds intentionally placed to help the community thrive, including two barrel vaults, apartment residences, an outdoor amphitheater, a community swimming pool, an office complex and a lush greenhouse. 

Arcosanti’s two barrel vaults with art embedded concrete walls

Today, Arcosanti continues to fulfill Soleri’s vision as an educational center for upcoming architects and philosophers. Scholars from across the world choose the community to attend advanced workshops and classes on everything from experimental design to architectural agriculture.  

Nearly 40,000 tourists visit the unique community annually to witness Soleri’s philosophy of arcology in person. Visitors can take guided tours through the sweeping campus or stay overnight in one of its lavish guest accommodations. To plan your trip to the historic community, or learn more about its events and programming, visit Arcosanti’s website here.

Chicago’s Lincoln Park & Its Spring Offerings

Just two blocks east of Optima Lakeview lives Chicago’s largest recreational area, Lincoln Park. Throughout the year, the beloved park is host to a plethora of unique events and activities, but Spring is one of the best seasons to witness the more than three square miles of greenery come alive and enjoy all of its enchanting affordances. Here are our favorite activities we believe you should take advantage of this season:

While the park is widely known for being home to the cherished Lincoln Park Zoo, Conservatory, Chicago History Museum, countless other treasures line the seven-mile stretch of greenery. As the weather gets warmer, one of the best ways to experience Lincoln Park is by taking a stroll through one of its various paths. 

One of the most familiar, the Lincoln Park Trail, is perfect for those interested in observing some of the park’s most iconic monuments, sculptures and murals. The five-mile stretch offers views of Self Portrait, Chevron, the You Know What You Should Do mural and the Alexander Hamilton Monument.

The park is also home to great eateries and restaurants that provide amazing views of the vast greenery and not-so-distant skyline. The Patio at Cafe Brauer, North Pond and Bacino’s Italian Grill each bring their unique flavors to the park, promising visitors unforgettable eats and refreshing atmospheres. 

Another easy stop for food and entertainment is at Lincoln Park’s Theater on the Lake. Found at the end of Fullerton Avenue on Lakefront Trail, Theater on the Lake is one of the steadfast champions of Chicago’s off-Loop theater community. With special events and shows happening throughout the season into the summer, it’s one of the greatest treasures in the park. 

Along with being home to the Waveland Tennis Court, Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course, Lincoln Park Archery Range and countless other recreational activities, the park hosts various free and unique excursions. From yoga to farmer’s markets, Lincoln Park provides visitors with a handful of unique events throughout the Spring, all of which can be found on their website here.

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.

Chicago Architecture: The Chicago Bungalow

Chicago has always had a deep relationship with the unique architecture that has filled the city. And as we continue to add our own mark throughout Chicago with our forward-facing architecture, we love to look back on the iconic builds that have shaped the city’s culture since its founding. Today, we’re exploring one of the city’s most recognizable – although often forgotten – designs, the Chicago bungalow

Architectural Dominance

Chicago saw a dramatic boom in its population in the early 20th century. From 1910 to 1930, the city added more than one million residents. Black Americans and rural-to-urban migrants were rushing to Chicago in hopes of finding a job in one of the many industries dominating the city. 

As Chicago’s population continued to grow, the older neighborhoods located near Lake Michigan became increasingly dense, encouraging investors to buy land on the open prairies found on the city’s edge. Architects quickly began developing adaptations of the traditional bungalow to better fit the size of Chicago’s lots and the weather that comes with the midwest. 

The trend’s popularity gained momentum quickly, and the Chicago bungalow dominated the city’s residential architecture for the next three decades. By 1930, more than 80,000 bungalows surrounded the city, building a linkage to the city’s communities from Lincoln Square to South Chicago. 

Constructed With Pride

At the time, the Chicago bungalow was the manifestation of the American dream for middle-class migrants and immigrants in the city. The homes were heavily inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement and featured thoughtful craftsmanship and simplicity throughout their design. 

Specific design elements separated bungalows from other residential builds and helped them become one of the most recognizable architectural styles throughout the city. Each home featured red, brown, yellow or orange bricks and large windows to draw in an abundance of natural light. Hipped roofs helped shape the one-and-a-half-story houses, and porches were included to create a seamless transition from the residences to the tree-lined streets at their footing. 

Chicago bungalows also contained modern amenities for the time, which included central heating, electricity and plumbing, but were affordable to build, with costs from $5,000 to $7,500. While the iconic style fell out of vogue later in the century, they still hold a significant place in the city’s architectural story. As the builds turn 100 years old, many residents are realizing the importance the dwellings have played in Chicago’s culture. 

Illinois’ Department of Housing created the Chicago Bungalow Association to foster more appreciation for the historic buildings through various financial and educational resources, including how-to’s for restorations and energy retrofits. Owners of the single-family homes are eligible to apply for membership and benefits on the association’s website here.

Cycle the Arts in Scottsdale

Thanks to the city’s deep appreciation for the arts, Scottsdale is home to some of the most visionary public art in the country. And, with warm weather here and summer approaching, there is no better way to experience the city’s inspiring works than on a bike! Here is our guide to Cycle the Arts Scottsdale 2022:

Cycle the Arts Scottsdale is hosted by Scottsdale Public Art and the City of Scottsdale. The annual cycling event is back for the first time since 2019 to showcase some of the city’s exciting public art displays and sculptures. And because this is the event’s first time back in more than three years, participants will be able to hear about some of Scottsdale’s newest public art additions. 

The leisurely 9-mile bike ride is free and perfect for the whole family. It kicks off on Sunday, April 3, and check-in is at 8:30 a.m. at Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. While the event is expected to last until noon, the ride on Scottsdale’s award-winning bike paths will only take about two hours. 

Industrial Pipe Wave, Christopher Fennel, 2015, Courtesy of Scottsdale Public Art
Industrial Pipe Wave, Christopher Fennel, 2015, Courtesy of Scottsdale Public Art

The event includes 17 works from the city’s public art collection, including Jack Knife, Industrial Pipe Wave and Terraced Cascade. Each stop will include information about the art provided by Scottsdale Public Art staff and board members and possibly feature the artists themselves.

Made for both bike riders and art enthusiasts, Cycle the Arts Scottsdale is the perfect event for those looking to explore and learn more about the vibrant community. If you plan to participate, please bring your own helmet and water, and RSVP on Scottsdale Public Art’s website here.

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