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Creative Container Gardening

In cities throughout the country, container gardening is a staple in multifamily housing where space may be limited. And while at home during shelter-in-place orders, many were inspired to test out their green thumbs. We’ve always prioritized green spaces within our projects, from rooftop foliage to lush vertical landscapes, and we love to see our residents doing the same. For those looking to get creative with container gardening, here are a few ideas and inventions to help inspire:

Know Your Basics

This may seem like a no-brainer, but understanding factors like lighting, drainage and materials can drastically affect which plants thrive on a patio or terrace. You’ll also have to choose between annuals, perennials, herbs or greenery. And of course, consider your location. Plants that thrive in Arizona’s climate may not translate well into Chicago’s weather. Knowing your home’s plant hardiness zone can help you decide what to grow. 

Embrace Edible Greens

Don’t let growing your own food or herbs intimidate you; it can be done, even if you have limited space. In fact, gardening your produce in containers can actually help you control growing conditions and potential pests. Larger pots, proper drainage, and potting mix specifically designed for containers will help your efforts. For an extra growth boost, plant flowers that will attract pollinators. For more in-depth tips, the Old Farmer’s Almanac has extensive resources for all things container gardening. 

Try New Technology

It’s 2020, so gardening technology has evolved to meet your needs. If you travel often or forget to water your plants, invest in self-watering planters. If you want a show-stopping tower of plants,  The Farmstand takes container gardening to the next level, with options to grow 200+ varieties of plants with minimal user effort. Or if you want to keep track of the health of your plants from your smartphone, check out devices like the Parrot Flower Power

Whether it’s in Illinois or Arizona, our passion for bringing the outdoors inside serves to inspire and welcome. We hope it inspires our Optima community members to do the same. 

An Inside Look at Architect Lingo, Part II

Our team is joined together by a love of exceptional design so naturally, design is our shared language. From property managers to accountants to architects, we’ve all come to know and love the architect lingo that helps us communicate our passions, our creations and our vision. In celebration — and in follow up to February’s blog we’re sharing Part II of our inside look at architect lingo.

Juxtaposed facade and surrounding landscape at Optima Sonoran Village
Juxtaposed facade and surrounding landscape at Optima Sonoran Village.

Juxtaposition

Juxtaposition refers to the fact of two things being placed close together with a contrasting effect. It’s the intentional creation of, and analysis of, a relationship that brings about exciting new realizations and discoveries, bringing added layers of meaning to each individual object and their relation to one another. 

In architecture, the use of juxtaposition becomes particularly striking, manifesting on a large scale in entire building facades. With everything we build at Optima, we consider the relationship — or juxtaposition — between the built and natural environment. How does each entity influence and illuminate the other to positive effect? In our desert dwellings, juxtaposition occurs between the organic beauty of the arid landscape and the bold, Modernist facade of the houses, built in concrete and glass to intentionally illuminate their counterpart. 

Looking out the windows at Optima Biltmore Towers
Looking out the windows at Optima Biltmore Towers.

Fenestration

Derived from the Latin word fenestrae (windows), fenestration is defined as the arrangement of any holes in a building’s facade. More specifically, this usually refers to the doors and windows on the elevation of a building. 

From the most basic standpoint, fenestration allows for the entry and exit of people into and out of a structure. That being said, fenestration historically posed a challenge to architects, because poking holes in a structure can weaken its resiliency. With Modern construction and increasingly durable building hardware, architects are freed up to explore fenestration with more liberty and inventiveness, going beyond the practical to examine decorative approaches.

The terraced design of Optima Camelview Village
The terraced design of Optima Camelview Village.

Terrace

Terraces originated as a series of flat areas made on a slope for cultivation purposes, but have evolved into any level or paved area next to a building. Their uses vary widely, from still being tied to agricultural practices to now being a place of leisure and pleasure. 

At Optima, our approach to the terrace is with respect to its landscaping origins we employ terraces that allow our buildings, and their residents, to live in harmony with the surrounding landscape. We see the relationship between cultivating plantlife and cultivating relaxing spaces as intrinsically related.

Stay tuned for future features on the world of architecture lingo at Optima.

A Brief History of the Terrace

A hallmark of Optima properties is our integration of the built environment with the natural. Oftentimes, we employ terraceslevel platforms incorporated into buildings that allow for plantlife to thrive—that allow our buildings, and their residents, to live in harmony with the surrounding landscape. The usage of terraces is one that dates back for over 12,000 years, evolving over the millennium to be the sophisticated components of urban architecture that they are today.

Terraces of Ancient Times

The word terrace is derived from terra, the Latin word for earth. The technique has been in use for over 12,000 years, first utilized as an ancient farming method in hilly regions. Agricultural terracing involved cutting the land into a series of successively receding flat platforms, much like steps, to allow for more effective farming, by decreasing erosion and surface runoff and increasing the effectiveness of irrigation.  

An illustration of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
An illustration of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

In 9800 BC, ancient civilizations realized that they could adapt this technique to buildings, and they began to add terraces to their homes and other domestic structures. This first usage was seen across the globe, from the Middle East to the Pacific Islands. The most famous interpretation is undeniably King Nebuchadnezzar’s Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Although no actual proof of its existence has been found, depictions show an ascending series of tiered gardens abundant with plantlife, complete even with a waterfall.

Thousands of years later, from 3000 BC – 600 BC, Mesopotamians grew gardens atop ziggurats, terraced religious temples that allowed for religious spaces to become placed ever higher. The structures were placed upon many layered platforms, and it’s believed that ziggurats were what inspired the Biblical parable The Tower of Babel. 

Terraces continued to be integrated into homes. Around 1500 AD, Venice adopted terrace design to the tops of their homes, called altanas. Altanas were private, slat-floored roofs. They started out as a place to hang laundry out to dry, but continue to be used today as social spaces.

The terraced design of Optima Camelview Village.
The terraced design of Optima Camelview Village.

Terraces in the Modern Age

Following the progression of altanas as a place to socialize, people began more and more to use the terrace as a location to congregate in privacy. Private rooftop and per-unit terraces became luxury amenities in the 1920s, when building height began to increase due to the adoption of the elevator. At that time, terraces become a status of wealth, allowing for privacy, fresh air and separation from the increasing bustle of life on city-level. 

Today, the use of terraces continues to flourish, finding increased purpose and urgency in response to population growth and a changing environmental climate. They provide private places to reconvene with nature, away from the bustle of the city. Terraces also create sustainable and contributive space, by providing thermal insulation, solar shading to mitigate air pollution, increased biodiversity and enhanced quality of life. 

At Optima, we incorporate terraces to create private social space, to integrate nature into our communities through our signature hanging gardens, and to contribute to our sustainability practices at many of our properties, including Optima Camelview Village, Optima Sonoran Village and Optima Kierland. Terraces at Optima serve as outdoor living space, connecting the outdoor and indoor for a seamless living experience. From agricultural beginnings, the terrace stays true to its roots, allowing us to find harmony with nature.

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