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Architectural Treasures of Phoenix & Scottsdale

From Taliesin West to Arcosanti, Arizona is filled with some of the country’s most stunning architecture. However, many people don’t realize that there are plenty of local architecture gems that often go unrecognized, even closer to the Scottsdale area. Forever inspired by the architecture surrounding us, we’ve been out and about to spotlight a few of the many architectural treasures found around Phoenix and Scottsdale.

Tovrea Castle at Carraro Heights

Built from 1929 to 1931, Tovrea Castle is one of Phoenix’s most recognizable landmarks. The castle is named after the structure’s architect, Alessio Carraro, and former owner, Della Tovrea. Thanks to its unique Italianate Architectural Style, the building is known locally as the “Wedding Cake Castle”. Its construction includes a four-tier fashion, with each level utilizing materials such as granite block, pine wood and stucco. 

Intricate details, including parapets on each tier’s roof, Art Deco lighting and over 5,000 cacti, add to the castle’s extravagant character. Originally planned as a centerpiece for a destination hotel, the castle instead became a private residence after its completion and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. Thankfully today, even if you don’t tour the castle yourself, the stunning building is easily viewable to any passer-by thanks to its grand design.

Gammage Memorial Auditorium

Gammage Memorial Auditorium

Acting as Arizona State University’s performing arts center for nearly 60 years, Gammage Memorial Auditorium stands as one of Arizona’s most dramatic architectural works and one of the largest exhibitors of performing arts for universities around the world. Considered one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s last commissions, the structure stands 80 feet high and measures 300 by 250 feet. Wright based his design on a Baghdadi opera house that he had previously conceptualized for the city but never built. 

Twin arch buttress walkways jut from the north and east sides of the auditorium while fifty rose-colored, “marblecrete” columns encompass the exterior, supporting the circular roof. Besides the round roof, the theme of circles are found nearly everywhere throughout the interlocking circular arcs of the building. Its shapes, colors, textures and materials all pay tribute to the surrounding Arizona landscape, and it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. 

Rosson House Museum

Rosson House Museum at Heritage Square

More than 125 years old, Phoenix’s Rosson House shares a story of Arizona’s territorial past. Designed by San Francisco architect A.P. Petit, the 1895 home mainly displays a Queen Anne Victorian style. However, unique French and Chinese architectural elements are found throughout the home. Because of the home’s style, Petit utilized fired brick and wood for the home, shifting from the standard building material of the time and location, adobe brick. 

Standout design elements of the house include the Victorian Era gold-infused ruby glass windows, a Chinese-inspired half-moon arch on its veranda and a French-inspired octagonal turret at its peak. After being added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, the historic house, now owned by the City of Phoenix, is a museum and remains a popular destination for architecture lovers today. 

There’s no better way to celebrate the robust and compelling architecture of Phoenix and Scottsdale than by getting out and discovering the treasures yourself. Stay tuned as we continue to explore more of our community’s remarkable art and architecture!

Scottsdale Public Art: Windows to the West

As part of our ongoing public art series, we’ve been exploring exceptional creations to be found across Scottsdale, from the unique Water to Water, to the latest installation, Pinball Wizard. Today however, the spotlight is on Windows to the West, Scottsdale’s first public art installation and one that still inspires the city today after more than 50 years in the city. 

In June 1970, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded the City of Scottsdale a $20,000 matching grant to commission its own notable work of art by an American sculptor. The NEA program, Works of Arts in Public Places, would go on to fund more than 700 works of public art across the country, and Scottsdale was the first small city they approached at the time. 

Two years later, in February 1972, the City of Scottsdale finished raising their $20,000 of the matching grant, and the Scottsdale Fine Arts Commision chose acclaimed sculptor Louise Nevelson to create the first work of public art for the city. Nevelson, who is regarded as one of the best sculptors of the 20th century, completed the expressionist sculpture out of monochromatic corten steel designed to patina with time. Its abstract structure and shapes resemble some of her other iconic creations. 

Louise Nevelson, the creator of Window to the West, Gazing at her other artwork, 1978, Courtesy of Dixie Guerrero, ©Pedro E. Guerrero Archives

Although the sculpture was originally titled Atmosphere and Environments XVIII, thanks to its westward placement after its completion, it quickly became known as Windows to the West. Since its dedication in 1973, the sculpture has remained a treasured landmark of Scottsdale and continues to showcase how far the city’s appreciation for art has come.

Today, due to renovations on the Scottsdale Civic Center where the Windows to the West lived, the sculpture is in storage until the construction is finished in 2023. When it returns, art enthusiasts can expect the beloved sculpture to find its new home closer to the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, but with the same western spirit as before.

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.

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.

Exploring the Scottsdale Arts District

Since the early 2000s, Optima has called Scottsdale home. The one-of-a-kind desert city offers a little bit of something for everyone. Golf lovers can enjoy the sprawling championship courses, foodies have access to some of the country’s finest dining and chic boutiques provide shoppers endless entertainment. We are proud of our contributions to this vibrant city with the amazing communities of Optima Camelview Village, Optima Sonoran Village and Optima Kierland, and equally proud to see the city continuing to expand its cultural offerings to residents and visitors alike. Today we’re exploring one of the city’s most treasured locations, the Scottsdale Arts District

The arts district consists of an entire neighborhood found in the heart of Downtown Scottsdale, running along Main Street for roughly six blocks. Celebrated art galleries sit next to amazing art installations. Around them, retailers, boutiques and acclaimed restaurants ensure that visitors to the district are fully immersed in the best of everything. 

Some of Scottsdale’s most cherished pieces of public art – like the commanding sculpture Jack Knife – reside in the district, along with a number of the city’s museums and cultural venues including Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts and Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Arts, the home of Knight Rise.

Throughout the year, the arts district embraces its warm surroundings and friendly culture with its weekly ArtWalk. Every Thursday from 7 PM – 9 PM, buildings lining Main Street open their doors to the individuals enjoying the Scottsdale ArtWalk. In addition to this weekly tradition, ArtWalk hosts a themed Gold Palette series event every few weeks to offer even more exciting entertainment and showcase only the best of the best works of art. Live music, complimentary food and wine tastings, and extended gallery hours are just some of the few extra features that come along with the special event. Upcoming Gold Palette events include Western Week on February 3 and Native Spirit on March 3.

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art found in the Scottsdale Arts District, Courtesy of SMoCA

As we continue to develop our vibrant culture here in Scottsdale, particularly with the expansion of the Kierland community, we look forward to discovering new opportunities to enjoy the city’s rich cultural and entertainment programming, unique retail experiences and fantastic dining values, where there is truly something for everyone.

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.

Team Member Spotlight: Rebecca Grossman

As we reflect on our values and character as a company, we always come back to the same truth: our team members represent the best of Optima. Recently, we interviewed Rebecca Grossman, Optima Kierland’s Leasing Manager, about her journey to Optima Kierland, how residents and staff have helped create an extended family for her and the impact she has had on Optima.

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

Before Optima, I worked in retail management for 15 years – 9 of which were in Philadelphia – before I moved to Scottsdale. When the pandemic  began, I realized retail would never be the same. I struggled to figure out what could be next in my career, and where I could take my experience and interest in customer service to a higher level. As part of my search, I found an opening on LinkedIn at the Optima Kierland apartments. Coincidentally, I live directly across the street from the properties! I did my research and realized that everything Optima stands for aligns perfectly with my values and who I am as a person.

I was hired as a Leasing Consultant in March 2020. Just based on who I am and how I work, it was natural for me to take on leadership roles working with our leasing and resident teams, and was promoted three months later to my current position as Leasing Manager. I now manage two leasing consultants and work very closely with our two resident coordinators and nearly 600 residents daily. 

Tell us a bit about the Optima Way and what it means to the Optima Kierland residents and staff.

Something I love in life is building relationships and connections, so the fact that I get to come to work every day and do just that…well, it doesn’t feel like work at all! And what I have learned since joining the Optima team is that my values around relationships and connections is identical to those of the company. In fact, it’s captured in a companywide philosophy called “the Optima Way.” 

The Optima Way is so successful here at Kierland because our team shows a level of empathy for residents and one another that is unmatched. We make sure both residents and staff at Kierland always feel valued, seen and heard. We also sincerely believe that our residents are extended family to us. We care about everyone and take the time to be thoughtful and considerate during all of our interactions. 

Optima has a distinct set of values that really differentiates it from other companies. Which values really speak to the work you do at Optima?

One of our core values at Optima is there is a solution for every problem, and I feel like our team has embraced that value and demonstrates it every day. I try to lead by example and show my team how critical our work and values are so they can strive to that same level of passion – and they do. 

A line of golfers get ready to tee off on a course
Optima Kierland Apartments Golf Outing at the Westin Kierland

Can you give us a few examples of the great programming your team has been doing of late?

One of our upcoming events is an exciting food tour across the city. The company we’re working with will be taking our residents — by party bus —  to four different restaurants where they’ll be served a cocktail and appetizer at each one. We love to think out of the box for activities, and this is so different from anything I’ve ever seen an apartment community do!

We’ve done flower arrangement courses, fitness classes, cookouts and golf tournaments. We take the time to understand our residents’ interests so we can tailor our programs around them. And because our events align with the things our residents care about, each event that we host helps build that community that we strive to create here at Optima Kierland. 

Can you give us a few examples of ways in which your team has gone “above and beyond” for your residents in ways that really make a difference?

We have a resident who has lived with us for a long time, and her dogs mean the whole world to her. Recently, one of them passed away after a long illness. We knew it would be incredibly stressful for our resident to retrieve her dog’s ashes, so we simply took care of it for her.  I feel moments like these reflect the Optima Way; we act out of genuine kindness, generosity and reciprocity all the time — and not because it’s part of our job description. 

In another case, a couple moved to Optima Kierland from Philadelphia, and it was an enormous undertaking for them. I helped organize many details of the move, from getting their car shipped here to having their apartment custom painted. We also organized a surprise birthday party for a resident’s daughter and surprised residents who were honeymooning in Mexico with champagne at their hotel. Doing these small things is simply practicing the Optima Way, and it all adds up to create a sense of trust and family that we all share.  

What are some things you’ve learned during your time at Optima?

I thought that after a successful 15-year career in retail I knew everything there was to know about customer service and building relationships. It turns out that I didn’t know the half of it. I have become a stronger person here. I thought I knew my limits, and then I learned to push farther. We’re always striving for better, and sometimes it’s been intimidating, but I feel like my team and I are the best version of ourselves as a result.

Ellison Keomaka’s Art at 7140 Optima Kierland

Pairing unique, tasteful works of art with our buildings is an integral part of design expression with Optima projects. We recently sat down with artist Ellison Keomaka, to discuss the process and inspiration for his most recent contributions to 7140 Optima Kierland. – you can read more about our history with Keomaka here

While creating commissioned artwork for 7180 Optima Kierland last year, Keomaka was simultaneously working on pieces for 7140. “Because I was working on these two bodies of work at the same time, much of the inspiration for the 7140 artwork flowed from what I was creating for 7180,” says Keomaka. 

Armed with an understanding of the building’s design, materiality and sense of space, Keomaka decided to explore a grand palette, bold textures, and adventurous methods — “a playground of color and an exciting experiment,” explains Keomaka. 

Letters From Home at 7140 Optima Kierland
Letters From Home at 7140 Optima Kierland

Partially inspired by his own experience in the military, Letters From Home is an “assemblage work” as Keomaka explains, “that speaks to the emotional stories of soldiers receiving letters from home.” The assemblage includes images from issues of Life Magazine that date back to World War II, with two blocks of bright blue and red that meet to form a shape that resembles the back of an envelope.

Some Kind of Sunset at 7140 Optima Kierland
Some Kind of Sunset at 7140 Optima Kierland

Keomaka’s personal favorite, Some Kind of Sunset captures the idea of the endless shifts in the sun’s position. Working over a period of two months, Keomaka used pearlescent and fluorescent paints to animate the surface of the canvas, allowing the colors to adapt and change with changes in the natural light striking the surface throughout the day.

Desert Dance at 7140 Optima Kierland
Desert Dance at 7140 Optima Kierland

As the title suggests, Keomaka created this piece as a kind of dance that responded to music he was listening to while painting. “Working with music is a big part of my artistic practice,” Keomaka states. “For this work, I was listening to a playlist that included Kanye West, Coldplay and movie soundtracks, and I used my brushstrokes and color choices to respond to the eclectic mix,” he shares.

The Space Between at 7140 Optima Kierland
The Space Between at 7140 Optima Kierland

Comprised of vertical bands of bright colors, The Space Between may seem like it is one of the more simple works of art created by Keomaka for 7140 Optima Kierland. However, color and texture are precisely what make this piece stand out. Keomaka mixed primary colors to create unique hues that live in the spaces between yellow, blue and red, while using a squeegee tool to control the flow and texture of the paint on the canvas to add to the sense of flatness and precision.

Keomaka’s bold and experimental artwork echoes the creative brilliance and ingenuity that we care deeply about at Optima. His ability to translate these artistic gestures into works that activate the public spaces at 7140 Optima Kierland add immeasurably to the beauty and warmth of the interior environment — for residents as well as for all who pass through the building.

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.

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