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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!

How Arcosanti is Still Evolving Today

Although 50 years old, Paolo Soleri’s visionary planned city, Arcosanti, is still thriving today. For the last five decades, the magnificent community exhibited the best of Soleri’s philosophy, fusing architecture and ecology and providing a home for many educational resources. However, currently the famed property is entering a new era, pushing the boundaries of Soleri’s philosophy further than ever. 

Liz Martin-Malikian, CEO of Arcosanti under the Cosanti Foundation states that while the community’s first half-century focused on Soleri’s vision, the next half-century will focus on the collective. Not only does the community aim to unearth more behind arcology, but they also plan to collaborate and partner with various groups, including local Indigenous populations. 

Shiro, a shelter by TSOA student, Micehle Yeels

Many of Arcosanti’s resources are provided to students of The School of Architecture, a crucial feature of the community. One of the key programs constantly bringing new life to the planned city is The Shelter Program. The capstone design project encourages students to design and build single-occupancy structures for future students throughout the community. 

While preserving Arcosanti’s historic past, Martin-Malikian is embracing the future by decoding Soleri’s philosophy of arcology – starting by reframing the community’s vision around its cultural landscape. Along with debuting a Cosanti Indigenous Residency, a new Indigenous co-design program provides a new opportunity to combine sustainability with passive and culturally diverse designs. 

Biopod 1, a shelter by TSOA student, Soloman Edelmen

Arcosanti has always existed as a hub for innovation and inspiration. And today, with a spotlight on collective, the planned city is preparing to embrace its regional heritage more than ever before. To explore more about Arcosanti, and stay up to date on their events and programming, head to their website here.

Vertical Landscaping Around the World

Our passionate connection to nature is an essential piece of our identity at Optima and has been since our founding. This foundation has led to signature design elements in our properties, like our vertical landscaping system. From the vibrant greenery that extends beyond Optima Kierland Center, Optima Camelview Village and Optima Sonoran Village in Arizona to the introduction of vertical landscaping to the Midwest’s four seasons at Optima Verdana in Chicago, the lush green element is a cornerstone of our Optima communities. Given our innovation in this arena, it’s interesting to take a look at how vertical landscaping is used throughout the rest of the world:

The Via Verde project, Mexico City

Via Verde, Mexico City 

In 2016, Mexico City began planning an ambitious project to bring vibrant greenery into the city to reduce pollution and welcome additional natural allure to the area. The city came up with Via Verde, an initiative to cover more than 1,000 highway pillars with lush vertical landscaping. Because traffic in the city is some of the most congested in the world, the pillars not only serve as beneficial to the environment but also as works of natural art for residents.  

The vertical landscaping at One Central Park, Sydney

One Central Park, Sydney

Completed in 2012, One Central Park was built as part of Sydney’s Central Park renewal project. The building is a dual high-rise with a height of more than 380 feet, but it is famously known for its vertical landscaping designed by its architects, Foster and Partners, Ateliers Jean Nouvel and PTW Architects. The vertical landscaping system was a collaboration between French botanist Patrick Blanc, the modern innovator of the green wall, and the architects. One Central Park is home to 350 different species, including both exotic and native verdure, and totaling over 85,000 plants that cascade more than meters down its facade.

The Rainforest Chandelier in EmQuartier, Bangkok

Rainforest Chandelier, EmQuartier, Bangkok

Designed by the American architecture firm Leeser Architecture, EmQuartier is a 2,700,000 square foot mall located in Bangkok, Thailand. The innovative design that makes up the grand retail hub features restaurants, offices, event halls, and at its heart, an open-air atrium. In the atrium’s core, an unprecedented 337-foot chandelier hangs with exotic plants spilling from its sides. Patrick Blac – who also inspired One Central Park’s vertical landscaping – not only designed the ellipse-shaped Rainforest Chandelier for EmQuartier but also included two garden areas and a fully landscaped bridge connecting the mall to other surrounding buildings. 

We couldn’t be more proud to have brought vertical landscaping to the Scottsdale and Chicago communities like many other projects have done across the globe, enriching communities and fostering a connection to nature found little elsewhere.

Green Space Spotlight: Optima Lakeview

Open green space can be a difficult convenience to find in many Chicago neighborhoods and properties. However, that isn’t an issue with Optima residences and buildings; we strive to welcome the lush and lively Chicago greenery inside our doors. Our newest development, Optima Lakeview compliments the neighborhood surrounding it with outdoor terrace landscapes, a vibrant sky deck, and nature bridging indoor atrium. 

Optima Lakeview offers communal spaces outdoors that otherwise would be hard to find in the bustling neighborhood for many. Landscaped terraces, full of ornate and healthy foliage provide lush welcoming spaces for many to enjoy the modern architecture that surrounds them over a warm fire pit and private grill for year-round grilling. 

The highlight of Optima Lakeview, however, is its 3,600 square foot indoor atrium. Acting as the heart of Optima Lakeview, the atrium allows for integrated access to both units and amenities. The expansive space, designed by Optima CEO David Hovey Sr., welcomes visitors from the lobby with abundant floor-to-ceiling greenery utilizing Optima’s signature vertical landscaping. Abundant natural light floods the space as glass ceilings open the room to the sky deck and rooftop pool above. For residents, the landscaped center of the atrium that is home to an abundance of vegetation invites the guise of living in an oasis.

Optima Lakeview three-bedroom model residence

Like the green spaces in our other developments, Optima Lakeview’s supply of lush greenery allows our residents to enjoy a wealth of benefits. Green areas in urban environments help absorb excess heat and pollution and provide residents with ample space to stretch and engage around vegetation, improving cardiovascular health and relieve stress. And while urban living is often individualistic, grand communal spaces like Optima Lakeview’s atrium and sky deck promote community and social cohesion.  

At Optima, we are dedicated to bringing the outdoors into our communities. The picturesque private terraces, one-of-a-kind indoor atrium and other lush amenities at Optima Lakeview welcome that outdoor experience and allow us to fashion a sanctuary of our own. 

Chicago & Scottsdale Farmers Markets

Chicago and Scottsdale, home to lively Optima Communities, have much in common, including some of the best farmers markets to be found anywhere in the country. As summer approaches, each city comes more alive with a broad array of markets and fairs. Today, we’re spotlighting some of the favorites in each city:

Chicago’s Farmers Markets

Chicago’s French Market is one of the city’s nontraditional options, taking a cue from its European namesake and occurring indoors. Found in the same building as the Ogilvie Metra Train Station, and only a short walk from Optima Signature, the market is host to more than 30 local vendors – a mix of entrepreneurs and family-owned businesses – that supply neighborhood favorites and cultural luxuries. You can visit the French Market daily, except Sundays, from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Tucked beneath the Western Brown Line Stop is Chicago’s Lincoln Square Market. Although it has limited hours, Tuesdays from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Thursdays from 3 to 7 p.m., it’s a must-stop for residents. Local farmers, food purveyors and artisans fill the space each week, bringing everything from fresh produce to homemade hot sauce. And, if you go, make sure not to miss the local food trucks found in the area during the market!

For Optima Lakeview residents, Low-line Market on Southport is closest. The carefully curated market takes place every Tuesday from June to October and has a variety of favorite vendors that include The Hive Supply, Elsie Mae’s Pies and Lyons Fruit Farm. The market is part of Lakeview’s larger Low-line project, which helps to connect the neighborhood through a half-mile walkway and garden underneath the CTA ‘L’ tracks. 

Roadrunner Park Farmers Market, Scottsdale

Scottsdale’s Farmers Markets

One of the largest farmers markets in the area, the Uptown Farmers Market features nearly 100 vendors at the North Phoenix Baptist Church every Saturday from 7 to 11 a.m. Those who visit will find everything from local produce and plants to cocktails and cookies. The market, which is only a 20 minute trip from Optima Sonoran Village, frequently has a variety of food trucks to grab a quick snack from while shopping!

Found in Roadrunner Park just East of State Route 51, Roadrunner Park Farmers Market is open all year from 7 to 11 a.m. on Saturdays. Although the market is smaller, it carries a mix of amazing products that include hand-crafted items, fresh fruits and vegetables and baked goods. And, since it’s in the park, you can spend the rest of your day at the children’s playground, fishing pond, swimming pool or soccer field!

For those looking to travel outside of the city, Carefree Farmers Market, found directly 15 miles north of Kierland Commons and Optima Kierland, makes the perfect choice. The market takes place every Friday throughout the summer from 8 to 11 a.m. and is known for its assortment of local treasures. Vendors change weekly, but favorite goods include artisan jellies, locally-made salsas and freshly baked bread.

This summer, make some plans to support local businesses and vendors by venturing out and exploring what your nearest farmers market has to offer!

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.

Why Biophilic Design Matters

Since Optima’s founding, we have thoughtfully developed environments where nature and architecture coexist. This principle of sustainability – known throughout architecture as biophilic design – is becoming increasingly popular across the world throughout all types of built environments.

The process of biophilic design isn’t anything new to the world of architecture; however, in recent years, the design principle has seen a renaissance. Today, biophilic design is used within modern architecture as a method to fulfill the inherent connection between humans and nature. 

Because our natural habitats have increasingly become built environments, designers and architects have discovered the significant value of adding biophilic elements into all kinds of structures to enhance the relationship between natural and built environments. The framework for designing these biophilic environments consists of employing both direct and indirect experiences of nature. Direct experiences incorporate everything from natural light, fresh air and organic landscapes, while indirect experiences include utilizing natural materials and colors and ecological attachments to a location. Everything from skylights to green walls to fountains all apply the conventions attached to the design principle. 

Health Benefits

Beyond creating connectivity to natural environments, biophilic design also supplies an ample amount of benefits to both its surroundings and those who inhabit them. One of the most prolific benefits attached to the design principle is the improvement of air quality. Designs that employ vibrant greenery absorb the natural toxins in the air, ultimately enhancing the atmosphere.

Having access to vegetation and other models of biophilia also has a direct impact on happiness and wellbeing. When design principles like natural light and ventilation are introduced into built environments, a greater appreciation forms – establishing a more welcoming, advantageous space. 

Biophilic Design in Optima

Throughout our communities at Optima, we use biophilic design to improve the lives of our residents and complement their beautiful surroundings and communities. In our latest project, Optima Lakeview, we’re employing biophilic design throughout many elements of the architecture.

The development features a stunning atrium that includes our signature vertical landscaping system within it. At the atrium’s top, an expansive skylight fills the space below it with an abundance of natural light. Optima Lakeview is also home to a variety of private terraces and setbacks featuring lush vegetation and ensuring residents a seamless transition from outdoor to indoor environment.

From the materials used in construction to the greenery placed throughout a building, more and more architects are discovering how to include biophilic design within their builds, connecting their built environment with the natural world around them.

5 Innovative Materials Changing the Future of Architecture

As technology continues to advance, changemakers and visionaries are discovering ways to push the boundaries of sustainable design in architecture. Today, we’re spotlighting five of the most innovative materials currently in development that are setting the stage for the future of architecture and design. 

Green Charcoal Loofah Bricks

Engineered at the Indian School of Design and Innovation in Mumbai, the Green Charcoal Loofah Brick is another revolutionary twist on traditional brick material. Soil, cement, charcoal and organic loofah fibers – the plant commonly used in sponges – make up the lightweight, biodegradable product. 

Similar to the cavernous gaps that are found in loofahs, the bricks’ fibrous network allows it to double as a home for plants and animals to thrive. The bricks’ pours also act as water chambers, which, when filled with water, act as a coolant for the structures they support. While the name might suggest charcoal is a significant part of the material’s build, it only appears on the brick’s surface, purifying the air by absorbing a compound used for growing plants. 

Hemp Rebar

Hemp is one of the most carbon-sequestering and strongest fibers on the planet, making it a perfect material to shift the future of architecture. Engineers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute developed the low-cost, low-carbon alternative to traditional steel rebar. One of the material’s most outstanding features is its ability to avoid corrosion, further extending the potential lifespan of the structure it is used to build. 

The rebar’s sustainable makeup has the potential to decrease construction time and triple the lifespan of the most costly traditional infrastructure — including everything from bridges to dams to seawalls. Its engineers intend the product to be cost-competitive, making it an obvious alternative material choice for future builds. 

Blast Studio’s 3D Printed Mycelium Collum, Courtesy of Blast Studio

3D Printed Mycelium

An ever-growing number of engineers are discovering how to incorporate mycelium – a root-like structure of fungus that creates a network of threads and branches – into their designs, with a huge impact on advancing sustainable design. One of the teams leading the drive is Blast Studio in London. Their team takes advantage of mycelium’s strong webbing structure to form columns that not only support builds but also grow mushrooms. 

The tree-like structure is made up of a mixture of mycelium fiber and recycled coffee cups. After being constructed through 3D printing, the mycelium eventually consumes the recycled material and grows to command the entire form of the column. Along with cultivating its own food, the dynamic material also produces natural insulation and fire-retardant properties. While mycelium-based materials are still sparse, more and more engineers and architects are beginning to see their advantages in designs. 

Chip[s] Board

One of the best single-use alternatives to fibreboard, corkboard and even wood, Chip[s] Board is finding its place in today’s architecture landscape. Created by Rowan Minkley and Robert Nicoll, the biodegradable material is one of the healthiest building components used on the planet due to its absence of toxic chemicals or resins like formaldehyde. When creating the material, Minkley and Nicoll were set on combining the issues of material and food waste – eventually resulting in the sustainable wood substitute. 

The product’s name is a play on the ingredients used to make it, which includes a blend of potato peel binding agents mixed with fibers from potatoes, bamboo, wood or hops. To develop Chip[s] Board, the blended composite is heat-pressed into a sturdy board that becomes functional in everything from furniture to buildings. 

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

K-Briq Construction Waste Bricks

Invented by Gabriela Meder, an engineering professor at Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University, the K-Briq is one of the leading sustainable and recycled brick materials today. The unfired brick is made of 90% construction waste and produces less than 10% of carbon emission in manufacturing compared to clay bricks, making it an obvious low-carbon alternative in construction.

Designers of 2020’s Serpentine Pavilion – an annual design commission known for its experiential architecture – were one of the first to utilize the brick due to its versatility and similarity to the weight, look and functionality of standard bricks. Meder, who spent ten years developing the K-Briq, still produces it herself through her company Kenoteq

With new forms of sustainable design being created daily, we can’t wait to continue exploring the ways innovative architecture can contribute to a healthier, more sustainable world.

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.

Meet the Winner of the Redesign the World Contest

As champions of leading-edge, thoughtfully-designed spaces built to inspire communities, we enjoy sharing the visionary work of others who continue to impact the world’s landscape. In early 2021, Dezeen, the internationally-acclaimed architecture, interiors and design magazine, launched its Redesign the World 2021 competition. More than 100 firms submitted their ideas for rethinking planet Earth, and Dezeen has provided a platform to showcase the 15 most visionary, radical solutions to ending environmental issues. 

Dezeen launched the contest in partnership with Epic Games and architectural visualization tool Twinmotion. The competition sought revolutionary solutions and asked contestants several ambitious questions, including: where and how will everyone live; how will vital ecosystems flourish; and most importantly, what would a redesigned planet resemble? 

Each proposal consisted of an in-depth narrative, still images and a short video animation depicting the landscape. And, following more than two months of deliberation, Dezeen published all of the top submissions here, including the winning entry: Fernando Donis’ Frame City.

Donis, a celebrated architect known for designing CCTV Headquarters and managing the international architect firm Donis, constructed an idealized environment in which nature and humanity coexist. In his design, Donis established new forms of topography formed by terrace-like structures made of timber, depicting a vibrant natural landscape filled with lush greenery intended to house millions of people. The inspired landscape takes advantage of the most sustainable transportation methods and produces an environment where diverse networks of cultural exchange would thrive.

Like Optima, Donis envisions a world where nature and infrastructure become one, and innovative, thoughtful design leads the direction for an excelling world. You can read more about Fernando Donis and his vision behind Frame City here.  

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