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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.  

A Brief History of the Skylight

One of Optima’s hallmark design principles is bridging outdoor and indoor environments through thoughtful architecture. Throughout history, many features of design have supported that same principle. Today, we’re exploring an ancient feature of architecture that continues to evolve with time and make its mark in delightful new ways — the skylight. 

History 

The concept of using natural light to brighten a room isn’t new. The skylight’s origin can be traced back to Ancient Roman architecture and design. The extravagant feature was regularly included in many Roman construction feats and was often referred to as an oculus. One of the most famous skylights of its time, the oculus at the Pantheon in Rome, still welcomes vibrant rays into the church today.

Over time, glass became a sought-after resource for use in grand development features like the skylight. As the industrial revolution began, more and more innovative architectural advancements came into play, including the fabrication of architectural glass work, allowing a growing number of architects to experiment with skylight design.

The oculus at the Pantheon, Rome, Italy
The oculus at the Pantheon, Rome, Italy

Architects around the world began incorporating skylights in their designs, which allowed them to play with volume, natural light and interior space in exciting new ways — much to the delight of their patrons who commissioned their work. Many of the most celebrated buildings erected from the mid-18th century through the early 19th century featured skylights, including the opulent Palace of Versailles and the elegant arcades of the Galerie Vivienne and Passage Jouffroy.

Optima Lakeview

Our newest luxury residential development, Optima Lakeview, is dedicated to pushing the boundaries to offer a fresh, elevated sense of home; as part of the vision, we chose to orient the entire building design around a seven-story atrium, replete with a fixed in place, geometric skylight fabricated from steel and coated in our signature Optima Red.  Beyond the design itself, the use of skylights floods the interior volume with natural light, offering residents and visitors a constant boost to their health and wellbeing. 

Natural light floods into the atrium and other extraordinary amenity spaces at Optima Lakeview

Today

The skylight has continued to evolve and expand its purpose. Modern adaptations, benefitting from new design thinking coupled with sophisticated engineering and materials, allow for more observable connections to outdoor environments and sustainable building standards, including energy and temperature conservation. 

Today’s design professionals working on projects ranging from commercial buildings to retail centers to private residences continue to break new ground with skylights that provide exciting new features such as roof windows and other retractable roof lights that expose the outdoors. And with the ongoing research and interest in natural light’s many health benefits by scientists and architects alike, there is no doubt that the iconic skylight will continue evolving, with forward-thinking architects pushing the boundaries.

Scottsdale Public Art: Water to Water

Scottsdale is a diverse community with a deep appreciation for its environment, its history and the arts, which are some of the many reasons we love it. Home to the Scottsdale Arts District, the city recognizes the significant benefits that public art provides to neighborhoods, a value we share in our Optima communities. Today, we’re exploring one of Scottsdale’s most unique public works that highlights an essential aspect of life, Water to Water.

Water to Water was completed in 1999 by Christine Tanz in collaboration with Paul Edwards. Edwards is a renowned designer who received the Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute Design award in 1990. Both artists are recognized in Arizona for their impressive contributions to public art, including their instrumental involvement in developing a public art plan for Metropolitan Tucson.

Located 15 minutes north of Optima Kierland Apartments, Water to Water sits at the entry of the Scottsdale Water Campus, one of the leading water recycling plants in the world and Arizona’s first potable water reuse facility. While Water to Water is acknowledged as a public art display, it operates as a kind of performance, highlighting the water’s importance to Arizona and its encompassing deserts.

Visitors first witness a pierced metal façade, mirroring the walls in our kitchens, bathrooms and gardens, through which many of us have access to water. Once sensors around the display recognize movement, the installation comes alive, and water sprays from the showerheads and faucets that line the metal wall. 

The “interior” of Water to Water revealing its extensive network of pipes
The “interior” of Water to Water revealing its extensive network of pipes

The unique fountain takes advantage of the freshwater stream that stretches across the campus. After the water travels through the extensive network of pipes that lives behind its metal wall and retreats through the various spouts on its other side, it returns directly back into the facility’s stream – a fully-sustainable process. The skeletal framework of the work provides visitors with new understandings of water, a natural element that many take for granted, and tells a powerful, physical story about how life prospers in its barren surroundings. 

Scottsdale Water Campus, where Water to Water resides, is located at 8787 E Hualapai Drive and is open from 6 to 5 most weekdays. The art can be viewed at no cost to visitors.

The Benefits of Urban Greenspaces

At Optima, we approach every project as an opportunity to explore the best possible ways to create harmony between the built and natural environments to allow our residents to enjoy a wealth of benefits that contribute to a healthier, more sustainable environment.

We understand that greenspaces; parks, gardens, conservatories, roof gardens and residential greenery are crucial to the vitality of urban spaces and the communities where they are found. Population density of urban areas is increasing swiftly. By 2050, it is estimated that 68% of the global population will live in cities. According to the WHO, urban greenspaces promote mental and physical health through the promotion of physical activity, mutual understanding, and mitigating exposure to air and noise pollution as well as excessive heat. 

In the summer, the heat generated by human activity, transport, and industry creates an increased need for energy consumption to cool spaces. Green areas have the ability to absorb that heat and pollution. They also allow urban dwellers to stretch their legs and be outside, improving cardiovascular health and relieving stress. Each space also promotes social cohesion, the coming together of people who would usually not interact with each other due to the individualistic nature of urban living.

Landscaping used to create privacy at Optima Signature
Landscaping used to create privacy at Optima Signature

At Optima we recognize the tremendous advantages greenspaces provide. In Chicago, Optima Signature’s inviting plaza filled with lush landscaping and 1.5 acres of amenity space encourages residents to spend time outdoors. Gardens, landscaped fire pits, swimming pools, and outdoor entertainment all radiate the feeling of an oasis within the larger urban environment.

Landscaped Courtyard at Optima Kierland Apartments
Landscaped Courtyard at Optima Kierland Apartments

Optima Kierland Center embraces its surrounding beauty and builds off of it. Lush greenery fills the more than 7.5 acres of open space connecting Optima Kierland’s buildings in a park-like setting. Similarly, Optima Sonoran Village utilizes more than half of its 10-acre property to house stunning landscaping, sculpture, and pedestrian paths while mitigating the desert’s harsh climate. We utilize rooftop gardens and our signature vertical landscaping at Optima Sonoran Village, Optima Kierland Apartments, and will be bringing it to Chicago at Optima Verdana, to create an oasis inspired by its surroundings that contribute to the greater environment. This type of green space brings both beauty and positive contributions to their communities. 

Greenspaces make urban living refreshing, enjoyable and social. And as our cities become more and more dense, urban greenspaces become a crucial part of the ecosystem — and of our enhanced quality of life.

A Guide to the Chicago Architecture Biennial: The Available City

The first of its kind in North America, Chicago’s Architecture Biennial, an international exhibition of architectural ideas, projects and displays, began in 2014 with the support of the city’s Cultural Affairs department. Similar to Optima, Chicago’s Architecture Biennial celebrates the relationship that design and nature have with one another in urban environments.

Former Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanual described the Biennial as “an ode to the city’s past and an echo to our future.” This year’s theme, “The Available City” stands true to that sentiment. The 2021 edition of the Chicago Biennial “is a framework for a collaborative, community-led design approach that presents transformative possibilities for vacant urban spaces that are created with and for local residents.” Artistic Director, David Brown, a designer, educator, and researcher based at the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois focuses his work on non-hierarchical, flexible and variable approaches to urban design and has selected a group of accomplished collaborators to reflect his vision of an “Available City.” 

In order to achieve a collaborative and community-led design approach that transforms vacant urban spaces, the Biennial invites artists, architects and designers from Chicago and around the world to come together and share their creations, lead workshops and conversations, and create communal spaces where Chicagoans can come together and appreciate their city. Workshops will be held in neighborhoods across the city in which vacant spaces will be transformed into collective spaces. Digital programming will be used to activate these spaces. 

This year’s lineup of collaborators include creators from around the globe and creators who call Chicago home. Chicago-based architect, designer, and educator, Ania Jaworksi, will present a solo exhibition at Volume Gallery in which she pays homage to Chicago and urban life through the humor, pragmatism, and seduction that can be found in design. Other local contributors include Borderless Studio, a research-design practice that leads community-based projects addressing issues of social equity, Central Park Theater Restoration Committee, a group aiming to revive Chicago’s abandoned Central Park Theater, Englewood Nature Trail, a two-mile green infrastructure reuse project located in the Englewood neighborhood, in care of Black women, a creative initiative launched in Chicago’s south side focused on re-activating vacant spaces and creating “cartographies of care,” Open Architecture Chicago + Under the Grid led by Haman Cross III, Lawndale’s resident artist which leads and promotes design-efforts and creative projects in the Lawndale community, PORT, a public-realm design practice founded by Christopher Marcinkowski and Andrew Moddrell, and The Bittertang Farm, an architectural duo composed of Antonio Torres and Michael Loverich who explore architecture’s connection to living organisms. 

International contributors, ranging from Boston to South Africa to China, include Ana Miljački of the Critical Broadcasting Lab at MIT, Atelier Bow-Wow from Tokyo, Japan, Studio Ossidiana from Rotterdam, Netherlands and Venice, Italy, Matri-Archi(tecture) from Basel, Switzerland and Cape Town, South Africa, and Hood Design Studio from Oakland, California among numerous other designers and creatives from around the country and world. 

The 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial is open to the public starting September 17.

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