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Alfresco Cooking in Optima Communities

Warm weather, fresh air, and BBQs are all defining aspects of the perfect summer. Across all of Optima’s communities, we provide residents with abundant outdoor space to celebrate living well, and to engage with each other around alfresco cooking and dining. 

Our passionate approach to design creates a linkage between architecture and nature throughout each of our communities, but it’s in Optima Kierland, Optima Sonoran Village, Optima Signature, Optima Lakeview and our latest project, Optima Verdana, where residents will find extensive amenity spaces that include outdoor kitchens and communal grills on their sky decks, and additional private grills in select terraces. 

For those who are fans of alfresco cooking and dining, here’s your chance to hone your grilling skills with the great American staple — the hotdog. Whether you’re a pro or just getting the hang of it all, here are two great recipes to get you up to the sky deck with your chef’s hat and tongs…

Chicago-style hot dog
Chicago-style hot dog

Chicago-Style Hot Dog

Since Optima’s roots are in Chicago, we have to highlight the classic Chicago-style hot dog. The best part about the Windy City staple is how easy it is to prepare! All you need is a hot grill and all of the delish garden-fresh ingredients! Find the recipe here

Sonoran hot dog
Sonoran hot dog

Sonoran Hot Dog

While Chicago is famously known for its unique take on the hot dog, Arizona propels the standard bite to a whole different level with the Sonoran hot dog. Like its standard cousin, the Sonoran is topped with tasty condiments, but what makes it unique is its bacon-wrapped exterior. Find the recipe here

The outdoor kitchens, communal grills and private grills are just some of the many ways 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.

Furniture Spotlight: Tulip Tables

As we continue to tour the public spaces at Optima communities to highlight the impeccably-curated collection of Modernist furnishings, it is always a delight to set our sights on Tulip tables, designed by the luminary architect, Eero Saarinen.

Eero Saarinen (1910-1961), the Finnish architect who conceived the St. Louis Gateway Arch, along with many other well-known structures including the Washington Dulles International Airport, also received enormous recognition for his modernist furniture designs produced by Knoll, including the Womb™ Chair.

Legend has it that Saarinen approached Florence Knoll in 1955 with his desire to explore new approaches to furniture design, evolving from his background in sculpture and a desire to create a table with a single leg.

A drawing of the Tulip Table by Eero Saarinen

So in the late 1957, Saarinen proved true to his word and broke tradition by introducing a collection of tables, initially referred to as Saarinen Tables. They feature a single central base, made from single pieces of cast aluminum and finished in black, white or platinum, that appeared to “grow like a flower” with a stem-like base, as opposed to having the more traditional standing legs. With this simple, organic shape that included a slender neck and elegant, organic proportions, the base became the focus of a large series of tables that came to be known as Tulip Tables. 

With options for circular and oval tops with tapered edges in a variety of sizes and heights, Tulip Tables were conceived from an integrated design framework that supports a cohesive human experience. They were an immediate hit once they became commercially available, in part because the single base provides visual lightness while inviting people to gather around a table unencumbered by legs. Tulip Tables delighted both residential and commercial furniture buyers with an array of color choices as well, with tops constructed of laminate or wood veneers, or made from natural materials like granite or coated Arabescato marble.

The Tulip Table found in an Optima Lakeview residence

While design trends come and go, a precious few furniture pieces remain timeless and iconic. Saarinen’s Tulip Tables are among those —  ever-elegant, minimal and sophisticated.

Women in Architecture: Lilian Rice

As part of our ongoing “Women in Architecture” series, we’re spotlighting an eco-conscious architect of the early 20th century, Lilian Rice. Inspired both by the historic Spanish Colonial design she grew up in and the organic philosophy that influenced her throughout college, Lilian Rice left an impressive mark on the architecture of Southern California. Learn more about her extraordinary life and work below:  

The Life of Lilian Rice

Born on June 12, 1889, Rice grew up in National City, California, just south of San Diego and only 10 miles north of the Mexican border. Her father, Julius Rice, was a prominent educator in the state and her mother, Laura Rice, an amateur painter and designer, both empowered her to pursue her interests in education and the arts. 

Growing up, Rice was heavily inspired and influenced by the abundant Spanish Colonial culture and architecture in the area, including the many adobe homes. In 1906, she moved to Northern California, where she started attending school at the University of California, Berkeley, where she studied architecture. Rice joined the school’s Architecture Association shortly after and quickly rose to a leadership position. At school, she also discovered her philosophy of holding a deep respect for each project’s surroundings and striving to protect their natural environments. 

Lilian Rice, The Claude and Florence Terwilliger Home, 1925, Courtesy of Don Terwilliger

Following her graduation in 1910, she moved back home to National City to care for her mother and acquired a job working with San Diego architect Hazel Wood Waterman – the city’s first female architect. While working for Waterman, Rice also spent time teaching at San Diego High School, leaving her influence on many future architects, including Samuel Hamill, FAIA. 

Notable Works and Achievements

In 1921 Rice’s career catapulted when Richard Requa and Herbert Jackson hired her as an associate in their architecture firm. During her first year, Requa and Jackson assigned Rice with designing a Civic Center for Rancho Santa Fe – an up-and-coming subdivision – which she eventually gained leadership over in 1923. 

Lilian Rice, The ZLCA Rowing Clubhouse, 1932, Photograph by Diane Y. Welch

From then on until 1927, the majority of Rice’s work involved developments and expansions within Rancho Santa Fe. Many of the projects she designed in the subdivision are listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, including the Claude and Florence Terwilliger House and the Reginald M. and Constance Clotfelter Row House. In 1928, after she had received her architect’s license from California, Rice made the ambitious decision to open her own architecture firm.

Following the launch of her firm, Rice began working outside of Rancho Santa Fe, allowing her to step away from the Spanish Colonial style she was known for into more organic approaches. Even throughout the depression, Rice’s career excelled in the 1930s when she designed some of her most familiar works, including the Paul Ecke Ranch home, and both a boathouse and a clubhouse for the San Diego ZLAC Rowing Club in 1932.  

Lilian Rice, Mixed-use building holding La Valenciana Apartments and Rice’s office, Rancho Santa Fe, 1928

Alongside her work, Rice has been a recipient of many architecture awards and achievements, including: 

  • AIA Honor Award, Chrstine Arnberg Residence, 1928
  • AIA Honor Award, ZLAC Rowing Club, 1933
  • AIA Honor Award, La Valenciana Apartments, 1933
  • 11 buildings listed to the National Register of Historic Places

Through her diverse catalog of architecture projects, Rice filled Southern California with more than 60 unique homes. And while the Spanish Colonial Revival was prevalent at the time, Rice was one of the leading architects who helped make it widespread throughout the state, leaving a reputation little can compare. 

Furniture Spotlight: Table E-1027

One of the ways we honor the Forever Modern promise and keep it relevant at Optima is by curating both public and residential spaces in our communities with timeless furniture. Take a stroll through any of our Optima communities and you will find the Table E-1027 in beautiful settings of pristine Modernist furniture. Let’s take a closer look.

Table E-1027 is an adjustable steel and glass table designed by Irish designer Eileen Gray in 1927. Originally created for her home in the south of France by the same name, the table has since become one of Gray’s most famous designs.

The table’s design celebrates the simplicity of Modernist ideals of form and function. The table consists of two concentric forms of tubular stainless steel that are joined by two vertical tubes to adjust the height — with one of the forms serving as an adjustable arm and tempered glass functioning as the table’s surface. The story behind the design is that Gray originally conceived it for her sister, who routinely ate breakfast in bed. With a traylike surface that could be positioned comfortably over the bed, her sister could enjoy her morning routine while avoiding dropping crumbs on the linens.

Table E-1027

Without question, Table E-1027 is one of Gray’s most famous pieces, even though she was a prolific designer. In the decades since it became available commercially, Table E-1027 has come to represent the epitome of Modernist design. It is multipurpose, adjustable and portable. It works just as well in a bedroom as in a living room or sitting area. And finally, it brings refinement and tastefulness to any interior setting.

At Optima, we’re proud to include Table E-1027 in a host of spaces and arrangements for our residents and their visitors to enjoy.

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. 

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.

The Future of Sustainable Design in Architecture

At Optima, sustainable design has always been part of our ethos, as we strive to create vibrant communities built with the surrounding natural environment at the forefront. And as technology continues pushing the boundaries of sustainability in architecture, we wanted to explore what the future might possibly hold. 

Historically, sustainable architecture has focused on lush outdoor environments, and at Optima, we know the benefits of urban greenspaces, which is why we have incorporated them into our communities for decades. Urban greenspaces and vertical landscaping are just some of the many sustainable features found in many of our Optima communities that help promote mental and physical health, while mitigating pollution and emulating the feeling of oasis. 

Today, as new age modernism continues to evolve and environmentalism exceeds formalism, designers and architects are developing new ways to create built environments that also benefit the Earth. The newest approach to sustainable architecture is found within regenerative building. 

Regenerative building looks beyond lessening harmful impact; it seeks ways to repair and restore the surrounding environment. In the regenerative design process, innovators conceive ways for each building to produce its own energy, treat its own water and emit a net-positive impact on the environment. 

The Centre for the Built Environment’s living wall which features 24 plant species and 7,000 plants, courtesy of Nova Scotia Community College
The Centre for the Built Environment’s living wall which features 24 plant species and 7,000 plants, courtesy of Nova Scotia Community College

While global contests like Redesign the World are encouraging designers to envision radical solutions to end environmental issues through built communities, some architects have begun to bring regenerative building to life. 

The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design, Georgia Tech, courtesy of Justin Chan Photography, Lord Aeck Sargent, and Miller Hull Partnership
The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design, Georgia Tech, courtesy of Justin Chan Photography, Lord Aeck Sargent, and Miller Hull Partnership

Buildings like The Kendeda Building For Innovative Sustainable Design found on Georgia Tech’s campus and Portal High School in Irvine, California use green roofs and water collection systems to reduce reliance on negative forms of energy. Other buildings like Nova Scotia Community College’s Centre for the Built Environment take advantage of multiple sustainable design features like living walls, geothermal systems and solar and wind energy to regenerate and restore their surroundings. 

As sustainable approaches to design continue to expand over time, we can’t wait to continue exploring how – through architecture – we can change contribute to a healthier, more sustainable environment.

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.

Optima Communities: Revisiting Lakeview

​​As our newest development, Optima Lakeview, nears completion, we are diving back into this beloved neighborhood. Here are just a few things that make Lakeview special to us at Optima and to the residents who call the neighborhood home.

Festivities Year-round 

No matter the season, festivals and markets fill Lakeview’s social calendar, providing locals with numerous opportunities to connect and celebrate. A neighborhood favorite, Restaurant Week kicks things off each spring with a handful of specials on local menus, allowing foodies to explore Lakeview one dish at a time. Fitness fanatics will enjoy the Lincoln Hub Workout Series hosted in South Lakeview Park during the summertime. Halsted Street is filled with pride in June to celebrate Chicago’s LGBTQ+ community. 

Lakeview’s Festival of the Arts spotlights local artists, musicians and restaurants in the autumn months annually. In October, families take part in Trick or Treat Southport, with Halloween-themed activities for all ages. To close the year, festive lights, photos with Santa and more can be found at Lakeview’s Holiday Stroll.

Rendering of Optima Lakeview

Hidden Gems 

Lakeview has plenty of shops, restaurants, museums and theatres to satisfy all interests. However, there are a few neighborhood staples that not many know about. Located just off of Diversey, Clark and Broadway, Landmark Century Centre Cinema is a favorite for film buffs and is complete with a Spanish Baroque façade designed by the prominent architecture firm Levy & Klein. On Lakeview’s South Side, Wrightwood 659, designed by Pritzker Prize-winner Tadao Ando, presents visitors with thought-provoking exhibitions of international art and architecture not found anywhere else. The museum’s current exhibition, Romanticism to Ruin, includes reconstructions of two lost works from Louis H. Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Near the exhibition space sits a neighborhood favorite for food, Del Seoul. The local restaurant fuses traditional American, Korean and Mexican food into a tasty menu unique to the city. One of Lakeview’s more well-known hidden gems is Northalsted Market Days. The annual tradition takes place on Halsted Street for six blocks, making it the largest outdoor street festival in the Midwest. During the two-day festival that takes place in August, tourists and locals celebrate the community and enjoy local vendors, food, arts, crafts and music.

Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course

An Abundance of Green Space

Neighboring Lincoln Park offers virtually endless pastimes for everyone to enjoy. The Lincoln Park Zoo and landmark Lincoln Park Conservatory offer free admission and are filled with animals and lush greenery to enjoy throughout the year. Located just below the Zoo, dozens of sustainable local vendors sell fresh produce at the Green City Market from May through November, named one of the best markets in the nation.

Residents will find a number of accessible outdoor recreational activities just steps from Optima Lakeview. A short stroll down Lakeshore Drive West leads to a driving range, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and several beaches and restaurants near the lake. Kayakers and rowers have easy access to Diversey Harbor and South Lagoon, granting the perfect spot to spend a warm day. Tennis and golf lovers can conveniently walk to the renowned Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course and various tennis courts that neighbor Optima Lakeview and are all open to the public.

The opening of Optima Lakeview is fast approaching and we look forward to sharing more about this state-of-the-art development as it becomes part of the Lakeview community!

Women In Architecture: Maya Lin

American designer, architect, and sculptor, Maya Lin was born in 1959 in Athens, Ohio. Lin rose to national recognition in 1981 as an undergraduate at Yale University when she won a public design competition at 21 years old for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington DC.

One of 1,422 submissions, including those from established design firms, Lin’s design included a black granite wall with the names of those lost in Vietnam carved into its face. Lin’s design intended to “take a knife and cut into the earth, opening it up, and with the passage of time, the violence and pain would heal.”

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is photographed from a low angle in black and white
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Maya Lin, 1982

The design was controversial for its lack of tradition and because of Lin’s Asian ethnicity and youth. Today, Lin’s design for the Vietnam Memorial is a pilgrimage site for the friends, family, and comrades of those who died in Vietnam and is an integral part of the National Mall’s landscape. 

Upon graduating from Yale, Lin went on to earn a Master of Architecture from the university in 1986. She opened Maya Lin Studio in New York City, her own design firm which has worked on numerous projects including the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama and the outdoor Wave Field installation at the University of Michigan.

In many ways, Lin identifies as a “designer” rather than an “architect.” Her works focus on the relationship between people and nature, and how people will interact with the space and nature they take up in the future. Lin’s work emphasizes human emotion rather than politics, making the viewer aware of their surroundings in not just a physical, but also psychological way.

A field of grass appears to have wave shaped forms in the foreground with a building behind it
Wave Field, Maya Lin, University of Michigan Campus, 1995

Lin’s 1995 design for Wave Field at the University of Michigan is inspired by the motion of fluids and ocean waves. Lin wanted to freeze the motion of water and movement of earth in an interactive earth piece that engaged the viewer more physically than a photograph. Wave Field was Lin’s first piece of earth work and was followed by her 2004 piece, Eleven Minute Line, in Sweden which is composed of a walkway that takes eleven minutes to traverse.

Lin’s architectural works include the plaza for the Claire Trevor School of the Arts at the University of California, Irvine, the design for the Museum of Chinese in America in New York City’s Chinatown, and a renovation of the Neilson Library at Smith College.

A forest of dead trees stands in an open field of green grass
Ghost Forest, Maya Lin, on view at Madison Square Park in New York City until November 14, 2021

Lin’s project, “Ghost Forest” is currently on display in New York City’s Madison Square Park. Composed of a forest of dead or “ghost” trees, the installation gives the viewer an eerie vision of an earth damaged from climate change in the not-so-distant future.

In 2009, Lin was awarded the National Medal of the Arts by President Barack Obama. In 2016, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. Other awards include the 1999 Rome Prize, an election to the National Women’s Hall of Fame, The American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the 2014 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize among numerous other recognitions.

Lin resides in New York City and also has a home in rural Colorado. She is represented by Pace Gallery in New York City and continues to run her own studio.

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